Even though they knew he couldn’t hear them, applause and cheers went up from the 70 or so people watching at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center as Paul Allen announced his donation.
Many of those attending had been part of the fundraising effort five years ago to build the NWREC’s new research facility, which Northwest Agriculture Research Foundation president John Roozen referred to as WSU’s first “big idea” of the 21st century.
Skagit Valley residents Ken and Sue Christianson, both CAHNRS alumni, told the assemblage why they had chosen to serve on the campaign steering committee.
“We’ve been asked to speak on why we give and to sum it up, we had a marvelous undergraduate experience,” Sue Christianson said. “In these tough economic times it’s very heartwarming to be able to help other undergraduates have a good experience and not have to worry as much about money. We give because it’ s a priority, and because we can.”
Ken Christianson added that all levels of support will help in reaching the campaign goal.
“It’s important to get support,” he said. “There are not many Paul Allens out there, but there are a lot of us. Whether it’s support at whatever level it’s a big thing to WSU and to WSU alumni to be able to say, hey, we have big support from our alumni and friends.”
About 60 people attended the Campaign for WSU kickoff at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser. Center director Pete Jacoby remarked on the long history of partnership between Prosser-based faculty and their industry collaborators and cooperators. Jacoby also said that Prosser-based faculty had brought in more than $2 million in grants in the past year.
In attendance were Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission members, as well as producers from around the Yakima Valley.
The campaign kickoff was capped by a gift of $500,000 from the Northwest Farm Credit Bureau. Farm Credit representative Mandy Galbreath said, “It’s important to Northwest Farm Credit that agriculture continue to thrive. We serve agriculture and our customers reply on agriculture for their livelihood. The research conducted by WSU is critical to their success. That’s why it’s so important to us to be involved in this campaign.”
At Wenatchee, West Mathison, a fifth-generation tree fruit grower and owner of Stemilt In., spoke to nearly 40 stakeholders, faculty and staff at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.
“We in the tree fruit industry are co mmitted to this capital campaign,” he said, explaining the self-assessment charge the industry is considering over the next seven years to support WSU. “Washington growers have created a world market thanks to the help of WSU research and we with their help we will sustain that global position.”
James Cook, former CAHNRS dean, plant scientist and donor, told the 65 gathered at WSU Puyallup talked about the profound impact of research and linked it to the power of private giving.
“Private giving pays for research infrastructure upgrades and covers the costs of exploratory or preliminary research needed to make WSU research faculty competitive for federal research grants. It fills the gap between the university’s state funds that pay salaries and the extra distance faculty must go just to obtain the federally funded competitive grants needed to bring big ideas into practice for the public good.”
View the WSU campaign kick-off video here.