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Alumni raise money for scholarships

by Christopher Gavin / Beacon Correspondent • December 6, 2012

The Emerson Alumni Association’s seventh annual scholarship auction raised $44,934 after a last-minute $20,000 bid, reversing a trend of declining revenues, according to Mary Ann Cicala, interim director of alumni relations.

The online auction, held every year since 2006, raises money for four undergraduate and two graduate scholarships. Each award is worth $4,000 and will be for students in the 2013-2014 academic year, said Cicala. 

“We were anticipating it wouldn’t make as much, and we’re surprised and happy that it did,” said Cathryn Cates, chair of the Alumni Association’s events committee and an auction donor. 

The auction ended on Nov. 30 and raised $44,934, surpassing the association’s goal of $25,000. This number represents an increase from last year’s event, which earned about $30,000, according to Cicala. 

“We’ve just found over the years [there] is a steady decline [in bids],” said Cicala. “I honestly don’t know [what caused the rise in bids].”

Among the 110 items being auctioned were VIP tickets to Conan and The Daily Show, lunch with Larry David, and a trip to the set of TLC’s What Not to Wear, which were all donated by alumni and Emerson administrators. Cates said the items were a factor in the influx of bids.

“Those kind of things you just don’t get on the average site,” Cates said. 

Cates said the auctions’ total could affect future scholarships if subsequent auctions continue to yield these kind of results. 

Surplus money from the auction goes toward an endowment for scholarships, Cicala said, adding that they also receive funding through Liberty Mutual, which donates a percentage of its revenue from special policies for Emerson alumni. 

“[Auctions like this one] may enable us to have more scholarships or bigger scholarships down the road,” Cates said. 

Cicala said additional funding for the scholarships comes through the association’s endowment, which is currently $306,500. 

Money for the awards comes from the endowment’s interest of approximately three percent, or $9,000 per year, Cicala said. The association must raise at least $15,000 in order to fund the $24,000 scholarships, according to Cicala. 

Of the funds raised from the auction this year, $24,000 will go towards the scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year, said Cicala. Remaining funds will go to the association’s endowment to help support future scholarships, she said. 

The auctions’ online host, biddingforgood.com, will take a certain percentage of the proceeds, according to Cates. She did not know the percentage at the time of the interview. 

Cates said she hopes the students who receive the awards will contribute to Emerson in the future. 

“Hopefully these people that get the scholarships they’re up for will give back to others and work on making sure students get to finish their education moving forward,” she said. “It’s very important.”