Early last fall, Colette Gandelot ’91 attended a Smith College event in San Francisco. At one point during the afternoon, she found herself seated across from President Kathleen McCartney, who was in town to talk about her plans for transforming the liberal arts and a Smith education for the 21st century.
It wasn’t long into their conversation before Gandelot realized that McCartney’s vision for Smith matched her own interests in women’s leadership and entrepreneurship.
“I wish every alumna had the opportunity to sit at a table with President McCartney,” Gandelot said. “Her vision for Smith is ridiculously inspiring. The only downside is that you find yourself wishing you could go back and be a Smith student all over again.”
Following the event, Gandelot decided to do something she’d never done before: make a five-figure gift to the college’s Women for the World campaign. “The objectives of the campaign are nothing short of amazing,” Gandelot said, “and I realized that I wanted to be part of Smith’s vision for the future.”
Gandelot is one of close to 36,000 people who have contributed just over $400 million toward a $450 million campaign goal—the largest in Smith’s history. Women for the World: The Campaign for Smith will fuel a range of initiatives intended to keep Smith affordable, encourage innovation across the curriculum and create new educational opportunities for students.
Surpassing the $400 million mark is a significant milestone for Women for the World, which launched in the fall of 2012 and is expected to close on December 31. The past two years, in particular, have seen a surge in support for the campaign. In 2014-15, the campaign raised a record one-year total of $72 million, and this year is going strong with $52 million contributed to date.
The campaign’s priorities include scholarship aid, reimagining and enriching the liberal arts, and The Smith Fund—which supports the college’s operating expenses and annual scholarship aid to students.
Beth Raffeld, Smith’s vice president for development, attributes the campaign’s momentum to strong alumnae leadership and a commitment to Smith’s mission to educate women for leadership.
“Inspired by President McCartney’s dynamic vision, Smith is thriving as a model for a liberal arts education,” Raffeld said. “Our alumnae and donors care deeply about sustaining the quality of a Smith education and keeping Smith at the forefront of liberal arts colleges.”
Though Raffeld and her team are celebrating reaching the $400 million mark, they are continuing to focus on raising the final $50 million before the campaign’s end. “It’s a challenge, but I am confident that our alumnae will help us reach the goal,” Raffeld said. “When Smith women work together, we can accomplish anything!”
Gandelot—who owns her own residential design and construction management firm—said she wanted to support her alma mater because the lessons she learned at Smith continue to resonate.
“Given that I am in a traditionally male-dominated field, I can say that not a day goes by that I don’t use the critical thinking skills and self-confidence I gained through my Smith education and experience,” Gandelot said.
Gandelot decided to direct her gift to scholarship support because she wanted to ensure that other women have the same opportunities she did. “Even the best educational opportunities are meaningless if they are not accessible to the young women who need and want them,” she said.
Having been inspired by President McCartney’s ambitious plans, Gandelot encourages fellow alumnae to show their support for a campaign that she believes will help Smith “attract, guide and support the young women who will lead our future.”
“There is an opportunity for everyone to participate in this important Women for the World Campaign,” she said. “Whether it’s a gift to The Smith Fund, to an endowed scholarship fund, or a gift to the renovation of Neilson Library, every gift matters.”
More information about Women for the World: The Campaign for Smith is available online.