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Week of 12 March 1999

Vol. II, No. 26

Feature Article

Joanna Finn and Luke Donaher

Sophomores Joanna Finn and Luke Donaher, cochairs of the Penny Wars fund drive, hold two of the banks in which students deposited hundreds of dollars in change -- and even some $20 bills -- for the Marsh Plaza restoration. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Students raise more than $1,000

Marsh Plaza campaign unites present and future alumni

By Hope Green

Toting industrial-size piggy banks around the Charles River Campus last month, Luke Donaher (CAS'01) and Joanna Finn (CAS'01) endured some ribbing from passersby. And counting pile after pile of pennies until 2 o'clock one recent morning, they lost a bit of sleep.

What these Student Alumni Council members gained for their trouble, however, went beyond the $1,000-plus that they raised toward the restoration of Marsh Plaza. Their hard work, say alumni spearheading the renovation campaign, represents a milestone in the University's effort to forge ties between current students and their predecessors.

"I'm impressed with how all the constituencies on campus have come together to support this project," says campaign cochair Sharon Goode Ryan (SAR'70). "These students should take a lot of pride in what they have done."

Finn, the Student Alumni Council (SAC) treasurer, and council member Donaher co-chaired a 19-day drive in early February known as the Penny Wars. Ceramic collection banks were distributed to residence halls and student organizations, and the group contributing the most money per capita (which turned out to be the Student Union) earned a free skating session at BU's Walter Brown Arena. An earlier attempt by the students to collect coins at the George Sherman Union and Warren Towers dining room last fall raised $300, and an incomplete tally for the Penny Wars surpassed $800 as of March 1.

Included in the $1.5 million restoration of the Daniel L. Marsh Plaza will be granite pavers to replace the pulverized bluestone, new landscaping, a brick sidewalk, and weatherization of the sculpture Free at Last honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS'55). The University Coat of Arms will also be cleaned and reinstalled. All of the work is expected to be completed by Homecoming 1999. Ryan and her husband, Bob, have pledged to match up to 10 donations of $10,000 to the campaign, which is now approaching $400,000.

Students were inspired to do their part when Ryan's cochair, Ed Westerman (CGS'66,COM'68) briefed the SAC on the restoration plans last fall. "Penny Wars had been a successful way for dorms to do their own fundraising," Donaher says, "so we thought, why don't we take that a step further and use the money to help the entire University?"

Mounting an ambitious fund drive of their own, Finn and Donaher plotted their strategy during the winter vacation, stumped at residence halls and Greek houses, and spent numerous hours on the phone. An artist friend, Bruce LeBlanc (SED '00), donated whimsical posters and fliers in a porcine motif -- "Uncle Ham Wants You," for instance, and a pig in raingear "singing in the change."

Keith Tavares (CAS'92), Boston University Alumni vice president for student and young alumni programs, praises Donaher and Finn for building support among scholars for the alumni-driven Marsh Plaza campaign. "Their effort," he says, "has helped bridge the gap between the two populations." This was precisely what Tavares had in mind when he established the SAC three years ago. The organization hosts the annual Welcome Freshmen Barbecue and a number of career panels, and Finn notes that alumni are putting together a database of firms offering student internships.

Such activities, Finn says, "send a wonderful message to the students that the alumni care about what we are doing."