Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Sullivan Family Library

Congratulations to Chaminade University on the opening of the Sullivan Family Library!

"Chaminade Gets Makeover" (video)

By Mary Vorsino — The Honolulu Advertiser

Chaminade University will celebrate the grand opening of its new 30,000 square foot, $14.8 million library. The facility is one of several campus upgrades in recent years, thanks to a capital campaign that has garnered $61 million.

Below are photos of the construction I took during October:


Here is more from the Hololulu Advertiser:

New library part of Chaminade's revival
Record $61M in fundraising boosts school's growth plans
Photo gallery: Chaminade's New Library
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By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Chaminade University will celebrate the grand opening of its new $14.8 million library today, a little over a decade after the institution teetered near closing because of growing debt and shrinking enrollment.

For Chaminade administrators, the library is the hallmark of a massive effort — against serious odds — to renovate buildings constructed in the 1920s, better equip classrooms and labs and offer teachers more research space at the tiny Catholic college nestled in Kaimuki.

Since 2000, the school has raised $61 million to pay for the work — about half of that in the past two years alone.

One of Chaminade's biggest saviors is the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers, Chuck Feeney, who gave away some $4 billion starting in the mid-1980s — anonymously, until his identity was revealed in an authorized biography last year. Feeney has given just under $25 million to Chaminade since 2000.

Thanks to the support, Chaminade can boast a new emphasis on science — with well-equipped laboratories — and is looking at expanding its offerings to include nursing in 2010.

It has also hired more professors to meet a growing enrollment. Since 2000, the faculty has gone from 50 full-time professors to 90. Enrollment is up from 600 daytime undergraduates in 1995, when the school was near closure, to about 1,100 today. In all, the school now has 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students, including about 800 students who take classes on military bases around the island.

The school is looking ahead to building a 200-bed dormitory, making long-overdue renovations to buildings that will house up-to-date laboratories, and putting in new faculty offices, computer science classrooms and space for the soon-to-open nursing program.

"Over the last decade there has been a tremendous amount of growth," said Diane Peters-Nguyen, vice president of institutional advancement. "We've really had enormous change."

Students see the changes, too.

"There's been a lot of changes here, just since I started" two years ago, said Katherine Carlisle, who came to Chaminade from a junior college in Washington.

unprecedented funding

For Chaminade, the fundraising campaign has been unprecedented. Never before has the institution, founded in 1955, been able to attract such substantive funding.

"When we started the campaign in 2000, it seemed a daunting task," Chaminade President Sue Wesselkamper said. "But you've got to be hopeful in a campaign."

In 1995, shortly after Wesselkamper became president, Chaminade had a $3.8 million operating debt, declining enrollment, a shrinking faculty and was considering closing.

Just after Chaminade kicked off its fundraising campaign in 2000, Feeney met with Wesselkamper to discuss her vision for the school. Feeney was alerted to Chaminade's push for funding by a member of the institution's board of regents, who knew the tycoon.

A few months after Feeney's initial visit, the school got its first grant from Feeny's Atlantic Philanthropies. Over the next eight years, it would get subsequent grants in spurts, ranging from $100,000 for the president's discretionary fund to $8 million for the new library.

"I have met Mr. Feeney several times," Wesselkamper said, speaking to Chaminade supporters at an event Wednesday. "This is a person who has given billions of dollars and yet he spends personal time at a small university like ours."

At larger schools, the fundraising totals are much bigger. The University of Hawai'i — which has about 51,000 students — has raised more than $211 million since 2004 as part of its Centennial Campaign.

Hawai'i Pacific University, which has about 9,000 students, declined to discuss its fundraising totals for recent years. But previous reports put its endowment alone at $80 million.

feeney's generosity

Feeney's link to the Islands is his money-maker, the Duty Free Shoppers, or DFS. One of the first DFS stores was at Honolulu Airport, and it was an almost instant success.

Conor O'Clery, the author of the biography about Feeney, titled "The Billionaire Who Wasn't," spoke at the Wednesday event for Chaminade supporters at the Pacific Club, calling Feeney "frugal," "eccentric," "secretive" and a "genius." O'Clery's book has gotten wide recognition and interest.

O'Clery said Feeney, who turned 77 Wednesday, wanted to lift his veil of anonymity in an effort to encourage other wealthy people to give. Feeney set up Atlantic Philanthropies in 1984 in Bermuda, fearing that if he started it in the United States people would figure out he was the donor. He signed over almost all of his wealth to the foundation and has vowed to spend the remaining $4 billion over the next eight years.

Institutions that received money from the foundation were sworn to secrecy and forbidden from honoring him publicly.

"You won't see Chuck Feeney's name on any hospitals or universities," O'Clery said. "He has no honorary titles or degrees."

O'Clery said Feeney's method of giving is "unique in the history of philanthropy."

Atlantic Philanthropies has also given more than $1.5 million to the University of Hawai'i for programs in Vietnam. One of the foundation's largest gifts was to Cornell University, Feeney's alma mater, which has gotten almost $700 million.

sullivan family aid
As part of its eight-year fundraising campaign, Chaminade has also gotten significant support from the Sullivan family, the founders of Foodland, the Castle Foundation, and the Hogan Family Foundation, along with a host of smaller donors. The library is named after the Sullivan family.

School supporters credit Wesselkamper with obtaining that money.

Brother Bernard Ploeger, executive vice president and provost at Chaminade, said Wesselkamper is modest about how dramatically she has turned the school around, but deserves hearty applause.

And that's just what she got on Wednesday. When called on to give opening remarks at the event, she got a standing ovation.

Reach Mary Vorsino at


More from KHNL NBC 8 Honolulu's coverage. Click here for the video!


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