EKU Alumna Fulfills Big Promise

Published on November 29, 2022

By Elise Russell

It officially started in 2015. Momentum was built, milestones were reached and new initiatives generated excitement along the way. More than $60 million, 10,000 donors and seven years later, EKU’s largest comprehensive campaign — Make No Little Plans — finished over $10 million above its ambitious $50-million goal.

The leader behind the success is philanthropist and Campaign Chair Maribeth McBride Berman, ’92. A love for EKU and a professional background in higher education fueled her passion for creating a culture of philanthropy at her alma mater.

“I never dreamed of being this involved,” Berman said. “But then it just became a natural fit.”

Years ago, when asked to chair the campaign, “I said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.’ I wanted a really high level of professionalism and transition to a more philanthropic base.”

During the campaign, Maribeth and her husband, Louis, continued to lead and build the philanthropic base with hundreds of volunteer hours and support for every aspect of the campaign, including annual, planned and major gifts totaling more than $4 million.

“Maribeth helped set a new standard of excellence at EKU,” said Associate Vice President of Development and Campaign Manager Melissa Grinstead. “You could feel the energy and pride at both our campaign launch and closing celebration events.” Grinstead continued, “With Maribeth’s leadership and as a result of this historic campaign, we have transformed our campus and students’ lives with the gift of education.”

The campaign centered around three main pillars: academic excellence, student success and campus revitalization.

“In the beginning, we focused on making this a beautiful place to live and learn,” Berman said.

Geared toward the physical student experience, campus revitalization efforts included new residence halls and parking structures, a new recreation center and dining hall, the renovated student center and more. Donor-funded spaces and programs include, among other campus projects, the addition of the Noel Reading Porch to the EKU Library; an addition and major renovation of the Jack Ison Sports Performance Center; the Chellgren Success Series as part of the Student Success Center; and the Berman Center for Professional Sales — established by Berman and husband, Louis.

“Once campus started to look more appealing to prospective students, we then became more focused on academics, programs and student scholarships,” Berman commented. “More students are now receiving scholarships because of this campaign and because of the generosity of our donors.”

Among the many highlights of the campaign, Berman really enjoyed seeing her peers on the Foundation Board find their own passions and make their gifts to the campaign. She and Louis led the way with a transformational gift during the campaign to match their personal passions.

“It was exciting when Louis and I made our gift to establish the sales program,” Berman said. As a result of the Berman Center for Professional Sales, students at EKU have the opportunity to pursue a certificate or minor in sales.

Other memorable moments of the campaign for Berman were unexpected gifts, like from Karen Hawkins, who left the largest single gift in EKU’s history. Planned and estate gifts, such as the bequest from Hawkins, made up approximately 40 percent of the campaign.

Just as important as the many large campaign and planned gifts were the annual giving donors and initiatives throughout the campaign. The Milestone Society, created in 2020, recognizes the loyal donors who give to EKU every year.

“My annual impact is incremental in that I am part of an association of people who are passionate about an institution and want to give back to a university that had a profound impact on their life,” said Robert Garver, ’70, who’s been giving annually for more than 50 years. “To be an original member of the Milestone Society was very rewarding — not only as a member but also being part of a tradition that will hopefully inspire others to become a part of the same tradition.”

The campaign also marked the beginning of a new Colonel tradition. Giving Day, started in 2019, takes place every spring and aims to achieve a certain number of donors within a 24-hour time period. The number of donors on Giving Day has increased each year.

“Every gift matters,” said Krista Rhodus, director of annual giving. “Together, these annual gifts not only add up to a substantial amount to support students and opportunity at EKU, but they also build momentum and energy among alumni and our giving community.”

Despite fundraising challenges as a result of the pandemic, the Colonel community responded with an outpouring of support. Immediately, the Student Assistance Fund for Eastern (SAFE) was established in 2020 to help students with unexpected needs. By the end of fiscal year 2021, EKU had marked a record-breaking year of giving across several different measures. 

Although the Make No Little Plans campaign ended, the philanthropy and volunteer work doesn’t stop for Berman. She has more goals to achieve for EKU and continues to serve on the Foundation Board.

Reflecting on the success of the campaign, she said, “For me, the pride is the lasting impact on our students, who will continue to benefit from this campaign for generations to come.”

Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement Betina Gardner added, “We are overwhelmed with gratitude for our generous EKU community and excited to see the perpetual impact and engagement of donors as a result of the Make No Little Plans campaign.”