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DU recalls financial recovery

By Daniel Althouse
On April 22, 2010

Wednesday, Duquesne University celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Third Alternative, a student-led fundraising campaign that helped prevent the University from financial implosion.In 1970, the University faced a cash shortage of more than $1 million, according to Tom White, University archivist and curator of special collections. At that time, many campus buildings were being built including the Student Union, the Music School, Mellon, and College Hall and Towers were in the process of being renovated.

"At that point, the University didn't have much endowment money either," White said.

Then-University President Rev. Henry J. McAnulty, took an unprecedented step and cancelled classes on April 21, 1970, and called the entire campus community to the ballroom to address the University's troubled financial state. He gave everyone two options-close the University, or face another huge rise in tuition.

"For [McAnulty] to do so was absolutely stunning, at the time," said Bob Woodside, director of advancement communications.

Student government president Rita Ferko presented another option: the students would raise the money themselves. That summer, Patrick Joyce headed a committee that spent the entire summer of 1970 planning what became known as "The Third Alternative: Students Save Duquesne." Ferko and Joyce got married and she is now Rita Ferko Joyce.

The Joyces both said McAnulty was an inspiring leader who was humble yet visionary.

"[McAnulty] was a man who got people to pull together, not pull apart," Pat Joyce said.

Pat Joyce, who was the first student to represent SGA on the University's finance committee, said the students involved in the Third Alternative were passionate.

"It was the student body that believed that Duquesne was a valued asset, a valued treasure, that was worthy of preserving and passing on," he said.

Part of their project was a 94.6 mile walk, the distance equal to a million dollar bills laid out end-to-end, from Altoona to the Point where the three rivers meet.

The walk started with about a dozen students in Altoona, and ended with thousands coming past the Bluff and going down to the Point, according to Woodside. He said at the time, protests were common for the Vietnam War and for Civil Rights. Because of that, people along the walk's route had no idea what it was for, so many of them yelled at what appeared to be just a large group of young people marching.

"There was all sorts of activism, but none of this kind," Woodside said.

"At that time, students were challenging authority at all levels," Pat Joyce said.

Pat Joyce said a large core group of students helped with the campaign. He said the fact that they gained respect from the City of Pittsburgh was important.

White said students got people or companies to sponsor them for the walk, which helped raise money. Overall, the Third Alternative raised approximately $2 million, half of which was raised by students, and the other half was matched by corporate sponsors.

As part of the effort, the students received a significant amount of media attention, even getting an advertisement on the LED billboard on Mt. Washington, White said.

"We would not be here, now, if students had not taken the action they did," Woodside said.

After 1973, things improved and the University was able to pay off improvements on College Hall and additional campus expenses, according to White.

"The University was back in good financial shape by '73. By that point they had raised a substantial amount of money, which was enough to save the University," White said.

In the same fashion as the Third Alternative, the University will spend the summer planning a large event for the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester.

Dom Oliver, assistant director of Duquesne's telefund, said the plan is to have a 5K walk during the weekend of homecoming, which will mirror the original Third Alternative walk as closely as possible.

The original students from the Third Alternative will be invited for other events that weekend as well. The other main goal, according to Oliver is to bring attention and educate the current students on what happened in the Third Alternative.

Bernadette Krueger, director of annual giving, said the University also plans to get current students involved.

"We want to do something right when school starts," Krueger said.

Oliver stressed that the University's mission in having the events in the fall is to educate students about what happened in 1970, and what the ambitious students were able to do.

The Third Alternative took years of effort from a large number of students, but ultimately they helped save the University and continue its growth and success.

"It will pass as just another hour tomorrow afternoon, but what really happened was unprecedented, here or anywhere else," Woodside said.

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