With impassioned teamwork and generosity, tens of thousands of alumni, parents, faculty and staff members, students, and other friends of the University of St. Thomas have surpassed the ambitious $500 million goal of the Opening Doors capital campaign. Thank you to all who participated in a wide variety of ways.

The monumental enhancements to financial aid, campus facilities, academic programs and teaching resources that Opening Doors already has produced, and will continue to make possible, is unprecedented in the history of private higher education in Minnesota. The resulting opportunities will benefit students in both anticipated and unforeseen ways.

The university and generations of present and future Tommies thank you!

Students are the reason why St. Thomas exists, why the university conducts capital campaigns such as Opening Doors, and why alumni and other friends of the institution give of their financial resources, their time and their spiritual support.

Financial Aid

Endowed scholarships are permanent accounts that provide scholarship aid in perpetuity. More than 300 endowed scholarships were established during the Opening Doors campaign.

Athletic Facilities

The Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex features Schoenecker Arena for basketball and volleyball, a state-of-the-art aquatic center, a field house, a fitness center and weight room, locker rooms and offices. Other results of the Opening Doors campaign were the addition the Fowler Veranda and a video scoreboard in O’Shaughnessy Stadium.

Student Center

The Anderson Student Center is the heart of campus social activity and the home to student clubs and organizations, dining, entertainment and several administrative functions. The John P. Monahan Plaza and the Murray J. Harpole Legacy Fountain outside the student center provide a welcoming atmosphere to all visitors to the student center and adjacent O’Shaughnessy Stadium.

Catholic Studies

The popularity of Catholic Studies’ academic programs (it is the fourth-largest major at St. Thomas) and its two institutes created a need for additional office, meeting and instructional space, which the expansion of Sitzmann Hall met effectively.

School of Law

The School of Law has been recognized nationally for its “best quality life” for students and “best professors,” and for eight years has maintained its position as a national leader in the rate of alumni giving. The Opening Doors campaign successfully raised funds for the school’s facilities, scholarships and endowed professorships.


Combining physical and virtual library resources into one collaborative “space” has been a priority for libraries on both the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses. Raising endowment funds to support these enhancements was a priority of the Opening Doors campaign.

Residence Hall

With funds raised during Opening Doors, the newest student residence hall was named Flynn Hall in honor of Archbishop Emeritus Harry J. Flynn, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees.

Ensuring St. Thomas’ academic excellence requires the university to employ master teachers and top-notch leadership in its schools and colleges, as well as provide a rigorous and relevant curriculum.

Endowed Chairs and Professorships

Faculty excellence being of great importance to St. Thomas, endowed chairs are necessary to attract faculty members who are master teachers, established scholars and leaders among their peers. Gifts to the Opening Doors campaign will establish 19 new endowed chairs and professorships.

Deanships and Strategic Funds

Deans of St. Thomas schools and colleges are vital sources of strategic vision and new ideas. The Opening Doors campaign provided strong support for endowments for their hiring and retention, and to allow them to develop new programs and projects.

Many St. Thomas facilities and programs benefit not only students, but also alumni and parents, other visitors to St. Thomas campuses, and the wider Twin Cities and regional communities.

Chapel Renovation

Thanks to generous donors, an early construction project of the Opening Doors campaign was the renovation of the sanctuary in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. A suspended crucifix, a new altar and lectern, and a bronze screen and “portal” feature highlighted the project.

Improved Parking

Filling a need that St. Thomas felt for years, the Anderson Parking Facility opened in 2009. Building the 725-space ramp was a major step toward the ensuing construction of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex and the Anderson Student Center.

Conference Facilities

The Opening Doors campaign secured funding toward a future expansion of the Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna, Minn. Resulting from a further campaign gift, the Gainey Center now is home to the Winton Guest House, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, given to St. Thomas by its owner, and moved to Owatonna from its Lake Minnetonka location.

Institutes and Centers

All of the following St. Thomas institutes and centers were recipients of strong endowment support from Opening Doors donors:

  • The William C. Norris Institute supports the commercialization of innovative, socially beneficial technologies developed by Minnesota entrepreneurs by providing start-up assistance and capital.
  • The Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy pursues the integration of law and the Catholic intellectual tradition through scholarly research, curriculum development and community outreach.
  • The Center for Ethical Business Cultures equips current and future business leaders to build ethical cultures in their organizations and to operate with integrity in their communities, through working directly with leaders, students and faculty members.
  • The Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning promotes interfaith learning and friendship by sponsoring courses and programs for college and high-school students, workshops for clergy and religious educators, and art exhibits and lectures for the general public.

Annual Fund

The Annual Fund secures financial gifts of all types in support of the academic, spiritual, social and athletic development of St. Thomas students, as well as the physical needs of the university’s campuses. Thousands of generous donors kept the Annual Fund strong during the Opening Doors campaign.

Father Dennis Dease, president of the University of St. Thomas

The Connection is Strong

Father Dennis Dease, president of the University of St. Thomas

There is nothing that I would like to do more than to sit down and write thank-you notes to each and every donor to the Opening Doors campaign.

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That is a bit unrealistic, however, considering that 43,000 – that’s right, 43,000! – individuals and organizations made contributions to the most successful fundraising effort in St. Thomas history.

Whenever I think of that number, I pause to wonder just what inspired such generosity. I always conclude that a donor’s relationship with St. Thomas has been such that he or she feels compelled to join our efforts to provide the best possible education for our students.

Opening Doors focused on three themes that have been our top priorities for the past two decades: access, excellence and Catholic identity. A St. Thomas education must remain affordable to qualified students. We must pursue excellence through effective teaching, active learning and scholarly research. And we must become more intentional about our identity as a faith-based university.

Thanks to your support, I believe we have made admirable progress toward achieving our goals. We will never be finished, of course, because how society defines excellence can be so subjective. But I do know that a St. Thomas education is more affordable today, thanks to the $117 million you gave to financial aid programs, and I can confidently state that we have never been more attentive to the Catholic dimension of our mission.

I told the faculty at the end of my academic convocation remarks in September that St. Thomas, with its legacy, spirit and resources, “has tremendous potential to contribute meaningfully beyond its current scope and to expand its influence. You will be part of that.”

I conclude with the same six words today. You will be part of that – all 43,000 of you, and many more – because of your support of this fine university. God bless you!

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John Morrison and Richard Schulze, campaign co-chairs

You Answered the Call

John Morrison and Richard Schulze, campaign co-chairs

Thank you and congratulations, St. Thomas! In successfully completing the Opening Doors capital campaign, we have achieved a great triumph for our students and the entire university community.

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Opening Doors began its public phase in October 2007, in the face of difficult economic times that have persisted throughout the campaign. It made the road more challenging, but the reaching of our goal all the more rewarding. Now that our long journey has ended, it is gratifying to thank each and every donor who has contributed to this achievement, whether during the public phase or the three-year “silent” phase, dating to 2004.

We would like to acknowledge that a significant portion of the campaign total was generated by several very large matching-gift opportunities or “challenge matches.” The important role of these as generators of additional support often is overlooked in fundraising recognition. Many individual donors, a major foundation, and the Board of Trustees itself used their own gifts as challenge matches to encourage other donors to participate in the campaign and multiply the wonderful effects of their generosity.

In addition to the obvious importance of alumni and other friends in this endeavor, much hard work from St. Thomas staff and faculty members – particularly those in the Institutional Advancement division – has brought to a very successful conclusion the largest capital campaign of any private college or university in Minnesota history.

Raising more than $500 million – much of it for scholarships and new and improved facilities – for the benefit of University of St. Thomas students already has opened many doors, and it will continue to do so for as long as St. Thomas exists. It is a legacy in which all involved can take great pride.

Thank you again to everyone who played a part in this monumental achievement.

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Mark Dienhart, campaign director

Two St. Thomas Endings, Two Great Successes

Mark Dienhart, campaign director

Amid the normal excitement and enthusiasm of the start of another academic year, and the happy but frenzied work that accompanied the closing days of the Opening Doors capital campaign, came word from Little Sisters of the Poor residence that Father James Lavin’s health was failing him and that the end might be near. At 93, the news wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was heartbreaking for all of us, nonetheless.

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I was scheduled to leave the country with Father Dease and some of our trustees, and I wanted to make sure that I visited Scooter before doing so. Father Lavin was someone I got to know well as a St. Thomas undergrad, the way almost everyone did, what seems now like about a century ago. He’d visited me in the hospital when, as a senior, I had sustained a leg injury playing football. He came to administer the sacrament of the sick. I, in my naïve way, suggested that he save the sacrament for someone with an affliction closer to the heart or brain. He, in his soft but inimitable way, suggested that I attend to the things I knew something about, and he would attend to those in which he had expertise. I remember “shut up” as part of his admonishment, and I promptly did so.

Father Lavin had pneumonia and had been sent back to Little Sisters from the hospital because the hospital couldn’t do any more for him than it had done, and it was his clear intent to spend his last years, days and minutes in that residence with the good sisters who cared for him in such a loving and gentle way.

Father Lavin approached his ministry at St. Thomas one student at a time and in a very personal way. When I had the good fortune to hire him to work in Alumni Affairs, it was clear that he took on his new responsibility in exactly the same way. Everyone who approached him was deserving of his undivided attention and best efforts to help. He was a lifeline to many troubled students. He was a connection to the Church for many who needed that at a particularly difficult time in their lives. And he served as a shining example to all of us who work in higher education and aspire to what jargon like “student-centric” really means. He went about his work one student, one alum, one person at a time.

The Opening Doors capital campaign, despite the economic travail that occurred during it, has been an enormous success. But it is a success only if it has a positive impact on individuals, one at a time, the way Father Lavin did and the way he would have wanted.

I think he would be happy and proud.

More students will have access to a St. Thomas education because of the record amount of gifts for financial aid given during this campaign, and they will walk away with less debt. More students will have access to the excellent faculty and extraordinary facilities that have been added to the institution with the resources made available by Opening Doors. And, the Catholic character of the institution has been strengthened by the resources and attention given those programs that are standard-bearers for the faith-based mission of St. Thomas. The great victory of the campaign is that it will assist individual students, one at a time, the way Father Lavin did.

Thanks to all of you who cared for those individual students in the same way he did when you made your gifts. I know he would have approved!

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Opening Doors - At a Glance

$515,104,773 total dollars raised. Donors helped make Opening Doors the most successful fundraising campaign in St. Thomas history, and of any private institution within the five-state area!

  • 43,539 overall donors, nearly twice as many donors as St. Thomas's previous campaign.
  • $142,000,000 raised for financial aid, the top priority of the Opening Doors campaign.
  • 309 endowed scholarships created. Ensuring access to a St. Thomas education for generations of students.
  • 58% faculty/staff participation, a 46% increase over five years.
  • 3,302 student donors. Tommies who are giving when they don't have much to give!
  • 19 Endowed chairs and professorships created. Such endowments help attact the most qualified teachers and scholars to St. Thomas.
  • 2,538 President's Council donors. Includes donors whose fiscal-year total was $1,000 or more.
  • 274 new Finn Heritage Society members. Honors all donors of planned gifts to St. Thomas.
  • Challenge matches $25,000,000 (910 gifts; 797 donors) and $20,000,000 (882 gifts; 760 donors).