Dean Elmore Takes the Plunge
Seniors break record for Class Gift donations| From Commonwealth | By By LESLIE FRIDAY. VIDEO BY NICOLAE CIOROGAN
The intrepid Kenneth Elmore, dean of students and star of stage, er, water, and screen, makes good on his pledge to brave the Charles in honor of the Class of 2011.
A brisk wind blew across the Charles River, forcing the BU crew launch Kenneth Elmore—clad in a BU swim cap, goggles, wet suit, tuxedo, and red patent leather Converse hightops—was standing on to drift to the side. The BU Band unleashed a drum roll. On the shore, hundreds of seniors chanted a countdown. And then, as promised, there was a splash, an ear-splitting cheer, and a very wet dean of students doing a leisurely backstroke toward the boat.
“It started with a Splash and ended with a splash,” says Sam Sklar (SMG’11) of his four years at BU. A broken foot and crutches couldn’t keep him from watching the dean’s stunt.
“It was an awesome way to end senior year,” says Lauren Sowder (SHA’11).
Elmore’s plunge into the Charles River on May 6 was a grand public acknowledgment that the Class of 2011 had met a challenge calling for at least 2,011 seniors (more than half the class) to donate to the Class Gift campaign.
Their success shatters the past giving record, set by the Class of 2009, which had 1,004 donors.
Going in to the May 6 Senior Breakfast, the Class Gift campaign was just shy (by 103 donors) of its goal. Seniors pushed past that number by live texting to pledge in the future, with their donation amounts (and a few naughty messages—e.g., “Dirty Pirate Poker”) flashing on a projection screen behind the podium. His fate sealed, Elmore returned to the stage with a fluorescent green inner tube to announce he would indeed jump into the Charles.
Elmore and seniors celebrate a record-breaking year. Photo by Cydney Scott
Allie Rowe, manager of the Class Gift program, says this year’s focus on number of participants is new. Past campaigns focused on a set dollar goal.
Seniors’ donations will go to the offices, programs, and projects of their choice—their school or college, scholarships, a student group, or athletics. “When you tell them that they can give to their favorite sorority or activity,” Rowe says, “that really helps to inspire them to give.” The majority of donations will go to the Community Service Center, financial aid, or the donating seniors’ school or college.
Those who gave at least $20.11 could choose a mentor who influenced them while at BU to receive a card and gift.
This year’s seniors gave more than $35,000 to the Class Gift, and the BU Alumni Council will add another $100,000 to that total, as promised if the challenge was met.
The gift will help BU, and it may also help the University in at least one other way: U.S. News & World Report looks at donor participation in determining rankings of top universities.
Operation Elmore Plunge was hardly an ad hoc affair. Weeks before Senior Breakfast, the dean met with University officials around a full conference table to talk strategy. University police were consulted on safety issues. FitRec and Athletics representatives discussed jump sites and wet suits. And Development officials updated the dean on senior giving and the likelihood the class would meet the 2,011-donor goal by Senior Breakfast.
The meeting was part planning, part slapstick humor. Elmore says everyone offered him advice: don’t swallow the water, get a tetanus shot, wear goggles and earplugs. He confides that professors and staff handed him cash to donate anonymously to the Class of 2011. He even received gag gifts from colleagues nationwide (swimmies and duck inner tubes) and fielded a request for the event to be live-streamed. (And it was, via iPhone.)
“I’m not the stodgy dean of students,” Elmore says of his reputation among colleagues at other universities. “Crazy Ken jumpin’ into the Charles River.”
Which begs the question, what will Crazy Ken do next year? Start thinking, Class of 2012.