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Aspire Higher Campaign

Onyx Online | 06.18.2018

The future is bringing more Woods students than ever to the campus. The Aspire Higher Campaign Committee is honored to be a part of this extraordinary effort as the College continues to renovate and update their home so that Le Fer may provide lasting memories for the next generation of Woods alumni.”

— Kathleen “Kathy” Wentland Lubeznik ’80
Aspire Higher Campaign Chair and Trustee Emerita

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Front view of Le Fer hall with the cross visible above the entrance.
The new cross on Le Fer Hall

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) publicly launched a $22 million comprehensive campaign in support of its strategic plan priorities including campus infrastructure improvements and enrollment growth.

The Aspire Higher Campaign has three primary focuses: the Woods Fund, endowment growth and a $7 million capital project to renovate Le Fer Hall, SMWC’s residence hall that opened in 1923.
The leadership phase of the comprehensive campaign began in July 2016 and was publicly announced in February 2018. “This campaign is about doing something for our students and the generations of students yet to come,” said Karen Dyer, vice president for advancement and strategic initiatives. “Our efforts will bring people who love The Woods together to invest in the future of this institution.”

Being a comprehensive campaign, every gift makes a difference. The Woods Fund is an integral part of the Aspire Higher Campaign. Susan Turner ’14G, senior director of advancement and alumni relations, is inspired by the increased support the Woods Fund has received from our alumni and friends in recent years. “The last three years has shown a steady increase in support for the Woods Fund,” said Turner. “Surpassing $1 million two years ago and sustaining that level of support makes me proud to be a part of the Woods family.” Turner added, “These annual gifts have made a noticeable difference at the College and in the lives of our students.”

Anita and Michael McMahon stand in the doorway of ballroom.
The Le Fer Ballroom was named and dedicated on February 23, 2018 in
honor of Anita Tiberi McMahon ’61 and her late husband, William. The College greatly appreciates their years of support to SMWC and Anita’s commitment to the Aspire Higher Campaign, which was the first $1 million gift received.
L to R: Anita Tiberi McMahon ’61 and son Michael McMahon, College Trustee.

Endowment support also continues to grow at SMWC as the Aspire Higher Campaign strives to increase SMWC’s donor-funded student scholarships and programs. By investing in our students, donors enable them to achieve their dream of a Woods education and enrich academic programs. The Campaign has already helped SMWC secure more than $2 million in gifts and commitments to the endowment.

Alumni and friends have already joined the I Love Le Fer initiative, which seeks to improve the look and functionality of this remarkable building to meet the needs of today’s students, while honoring Le Fer Hall’s historic significance.

With leadership gifts, SMWC is realizing important improvements envisioned for Le Fer Hall through the Aspire Higher Strategic Plan.

Le Fer Hall is a living legacy. It has been home to generations of Woods alumni and continues to serve today’s growing student body as the heart of living and learning on campus. A priority in the campus master plan is to retain the historical integrity of the building’s architecture, while providing the modern amenities today’s student expects.

Nathan Stroup, a junior humanities major from Howe, Indiana, shared with guests at the I Love Le Fer Party in February that students are excited about the changes they see happening. “Ever since the news of this project was released to the student body, there has been a ‘special energy’ present on campus,” said Stroup. He added, “This energy is a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for what the future of Le Fer and the campus as a whole has to look forward to.”

Stroup is part of a student committee appointed by President King to provide insight and advice in the planning and renovation process.


I first came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods when I was eleven. I remember gasping when I saw Le Fer Hall and saying, ‘This is where I want to go to college!”

— Ellen Cunningham, SP, ’61


Philanthropic support has provided a long list of campaign achievements enjoyed by all:

  • The cross has returned atop Le Fer Hall, as well as Guerin Hall and the Conservatory of Music. The crosses, donated by two alumni, were designed by Associate Professor of Graphic Design, Rebecca Andrews, fabricated by Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe and Sycamore Engineering and placed on the buildings’ parapets by Adams Roofing.
  • The Sacred Heart Chapel has been relocated to the main floor thanks to a generous donation from the Class of 1964. The former chapel space on the ground level is now Studio ’64, a student flex space providing a practice venue for the new dance team and other activities such as yoga, exercise classes and a meeting space for students.
  • A new proximity card system installed in Le Fer Hall provides students a safe environment and more modern access to the building and student living spaces.
  • First floor renovations are completed, providing significant updates to student and community spaces.
    • The large student lounge, known to most alums as the Green or Sullivan Parlor, received a significant update including a return to its original hardwood floors, improved LED lighting, increased electrical outlets and all new furniture.
    • New public restrooms have been added to the first floor.
    • A modern prep kitchen has been added for our food service partner and
      campaign contributor, Sodexo, Inc.

Highlights of the I Love Le Fer initiative yet to come with additional campaign gifts include:

  • Refreshing student rooms —refinishing floors, new windows and doors, painting, updating lighting and new furniture
  • Updating private and community bathrooms—plumbing, ventilation, fixtures and windows
  • Renovating community spaces on the resident floors such as the centers and kitchens—creating new interactive spaces for today’s students
  • Addressing structural integrity and deferred maintenance issues
  • Updating Formal Parlor—hardwood floors, restore Inglenook fireplace, refinish antique furniture, paint and lighting
  • Creating landscaped, co-curricular outdoor seating spaces near entrances
  • Increasing parking availability and improving traffic flow and way-finding signage around Le Fer Hall and throughout campus

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