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College exceeds funding goals; Western Maryland raised $41 million, will celebrate tonight; Westminster


Western Maryland College plans an open-air party tonight to celebrate exceeding its $40-million goal -- the most ambitious fund-raising drive in its 132-year history.

Tallies recently completed show that the four-year campaign, called "The Defining Moment," brought in $41,118,138, said Donald W. Schumaker, a spokesman for the private college in Westminster. Almost 7,000 of its 23,000 living alumni contributed nearly 70 percent of the total dollars.

"It was an ambitious goal," Schumaker said. "We were told by consultants to set the goal in the 30s."

The money will be used for facilities, ranging from the new $13.4 million science center to providing Internet connections in dorms.

Other uses include increasing the college's endowment, endowing a new chair in the humanities, and funding scholarships, faculty development and library acquisitions, he said.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan applauded its success, saying, "Western Maryland College is without a doubt one of the greatest assets to Westminster, it really is. They have an excellent relationship with the city."

After a private dinner and awards ceremony, the event tonight -- called "An Evening of Illumination" -- will begin at 9 p.m. at the Hoover Library, and includes a walking tour to the Ward Memorial Arch, with lights and music along the way. The library will be illuminated, as will be the new science building and those that have been renovated or restored. The seven stained-glass liberal arts windows of Alumni Hall, which usually are covered with plywood to prevent light from seeping into the theater, also will be illuminated.

Laser wands and candles along the walkways, and glow-light necklaces will add to the light, and flutists and a jazz combo will perform. Some of the money raised will pay the costs of the entertainment.

The short walk will end at the arch, which will be illuminated about 9: 30 p.m. Schumaker said a celebration will be held inside Decker Center if it rains.

'College in great shape'

The college enrolls about 1,500 undergraduates and about 1,800 graduate students in programs around the state.

Robert H. Chambers, the college's president since 1984, tendered his resignation Monday to James I. Melhorn, chairman of the board of trustees, and it was made public Wednesday.

In a statement, Chambers said, "You can't point to a part of WMC that isn't stronger With the college in great shape, it is a perfect time to move on and pursue other opportunities." Chambers specifically noted the success of the fund-raising campaign.

Although the campaign's books closed as 2000 arrived, Schumaker said, tallying the funds has taken several months. The celebration was planned to take place during better weather, and to coincide with a board of trustees meeting this weekend.

"We're expecting a lot of alumni," Schumaker said, "but the big thing is, we're opening it to the community -- just like the opening of the campaign," which featured an indoor laser show.

The campaign was headed by local builder Martin K. P. Hill, whose daughter is a 1993 graduate of the college.

Hill launched the fund-raiser with a $1.5 million contribution -- the largest gift to date from a living donor, Schumaker said. "Marty threw the chip out there [because] he said he wasn't going to ask somebody to do what he wouldn't do himself."

Another benefactor was W. James Hindman and his wife, he said. Hindman, founder and former owner of Jiffy Lube International, served as the college's football coach from 1977 through 1980. His contribution will endow the Ralph and Dorothy John Professorship in the Humanities chair, named for a former college president. Other physical improvements include: renovation of the 1800s Little Baker Memorial chapel, which holds about 100 and often is used for weddings; expansion of the library; renovation of three classroom buildings; a new brick walkway on campus; and improvements in the residence halls, such as carpeting, plumbing and wiring.

Fiber optics installed last year will allow students -- who previously used telephone lines and modems -- to connect more rapidly to the Internet, Schumaker said.

The classroom buildings that were renovated include Peterson (graphic arts), Levine (music) and Hill halls. Hill, the largest academic building, formerly was known as Memorial Hall but was renamed for Hill. The Hoover Library also has been expanded.

Renovations, endowment

With the new science center open, Schumaker said. "Now we start work on the places" vacated by two departments. That includes the 1914 Lewis Recitation science building, one of the oldest still in use in the state, and the 1967 Lewis Hall of Science. Those buildings, he said, were known for decades as "the two Lewises," but with the new science building in use, people have taken to calling them "the old Lewises."

The new science center, begun in 1997 and opened last fall, has won awards from the Building Congress and Exchange of Metropolitan Baltimore Inc., and the Baltimore chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. It is the first major new campus building on the academic quadrangle since the Gill Center in the early 1980s, he said.

Known for now as the Biology and Chemistry Laboratory Center, Schumaker said, the name of the new science building is for sale -- probably for $3 million to $4 million, at least.

One major goal of the campaign was to increase the college's endowment. "We don't want to be tuition driven," Schumaker said. "There were record-breaking gifts to the endowment of $14 million -- almost double the $7 [million] to $8 million goal," bringing the total to $45 million.

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