Thanks Day event displays student gratitude to donors

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A six-foot-tall thank you card and free Tiff’s Treats drew students to a celebration of Thanks Day on Gregory Plaza on Tuesday afternoon.

Students Hooked on Texas and the Texas Exes Student Chapter helped multiple campus organizations set up tables for students to make thank you cards to mail to UT donors. Students received cookies and free T-shirts along with information about yearly donations.

Student leaders organized the event to thank individual donors, alumni and parents who provide money to support education at UT. According to a 2009 report on tuition and funding, 10 percent of the University’s budget — about ­$216 million — comes from endowments and gifts.

Student Government President Scott Parks said Thanks Day was necessary to make students aware of the people behind the scenes making the campus flourish.

The thank you card, which more than 1,500 students signed, will be on display for alumni at the University Development Office and at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.

“We needed something like this to assure donors their contributions are recognized and the students appreciate them,” Parks said.

The organizations will post a video chronicling the day’s event to the Texas Exes website and the Development Office’s home page.

Each college council set up a table on their plaza to inform students about Thanks Day and allow them to make personal thank you cards, said Julie Lucas, assistant director for development at the University Development Office.

“I was excited that so many groups were willing to get involved, but the amazing thing was the level of student participation,” she said. “Students gave personal thank yous on the video and I think that will provide an intimate feeling donors will appreciate.”

According to information from the University Development Office, last year the University collected about $299 million from alumni and friends as either designated funds specified for a center or school, or as unrestricted funds allocated in the University budget.

Each college has a gift office that works to get donors involved, said Carolyn Connerat, executive director for development.

“We work to keep the alumni engaged in the University because every alum was once a student, and the giving and receiving goes both ways,” she said.

Connerat said some donors give because a gift office contacted them, while others choose to donate because they continue to work closely with UT and still feel connected.

“Some of our donors are very active at the alumni center, so they may see what a student is doing on campus and decide it’s something they want to support,” she said.