Campaign Perspective: Vice Dean Sam Lundquist on the Meaning of More Than Ever

Sam Lundquist

Sam Lundquist is the Vice Dean of External Affairs, overseeing all of Wharton’s fundraising and alumni relations activities. As he reflects on the significance of the More Than Ever Campaign, he speaks about his hopes for how it will strengthen Wharton’s future.

1. What is the status of the More Than Ever campaign?

With less than one year to go, Wharton has raised 92% of its fundraising goal. The School is really fortunate to be in such a strong position going into the new fiscal year. Before COVID-19, we were solely focused on welcoming our new dean, Erika James, as an exciting leadership element to completing the campaign. Now, of course, the world has changed abruptly and we must be sensitive and respectful of how economic conditions affect our prospective donors. I am optimistic that Wharton alumni will support Dean James as she leads the School through the crisis. She will make sure that our campaign theme “More Than Ever” is a definitive statement of Wharton’s relevance in a world that is challenged in so many profound ways.


2. How are fundraising priorities determined and how do they impact the Wharton experience?

Fundraising priorities are determined by a combination of needs that focus on faculty, students, and the educational experience that Wharton provides to its community. This means that both teaching and research are at the core of our fundraising goals. The impact of the pandemic is reinforcing all of the School’s original strategic initiatives. They all remain relevant, especially those focused on student access to Wharton (financial aid) and knowledge creation (faculty research and programs).  We are very mindful of the pandemic and of the issue of racial inequality and social injustice, which can all be investigated at a business school through the perspective of economics and growth. Wharton’s emphasis on the future of finance, analytics, and entrepreneurship all fit the paradigm of current events and global dynamics.


3. How has the coronavirus pandemic particularly impacted the More Than Ever campaign and fundraising in general?

It may take a few years to really see the full impact of the pandemic on fundraising activities.  There are many unknowns about the economy, but we hope that the cycle of recovery will enable our alumni to continue to support their School. Wharton staff who travel to cultivate alumni relationships are having to embrace innovative and new ways to meaningfully engage with alumni.  Doing our work virtually is challenging because it is not the way that we prefer to deliver Wharton to the world.

Reunion Weekend generates a lot of class gift activity for the Wharton Fund, so postponing the event this year had a negative impact on the number of annual donors to the School. We hope that rescheduled events will result in engagement of the many alumni who missed their chance to come back to Philadelphia this year to celebrate reunion.


4. How will Dean James meet Wharton alumni and donors during the pandemic when travel is not possible?

We have been holding virtual meetings for Dean James to meet members of the Wharton executive boards, alumni groups, and other individuals in the Wharton community. These meetings are going well and have helped Dean James learn more about the incredible reach of the Wharton School. While meeting as many members of the Wharton community is important, the highest priority for Dean James is preparing for the fall semester and the safe reopening of campus.


5. In your time as a fundraiser, what has been the biggest surprise of the More Than Ever Campaign?

The biggest and most pleasant surprise has been the positive donor response to the campaign while everyone is coping with the pandemic and pressing social issues in the United States and around the world. The loyalty and dedication displayed by our alumni, parents, and corporate friends is a constant reminder that Wharton has a role in responding to these challenges. The message of More Than Ever resonates strongly and our focus on the future of finance, data analytics, and entrepreneurship and innovation are preparing business leaders to manage change.  Change is a constant condition in business, but nobody anticipated it to be so fast and so big.


6. Many of the More Than Ever Campaign goals have already been met. How do you respond to people who want gifts to go to more pressing and immediate needs versus the long-term goals that the School has set?

Wharton’s agility was demonstrated at the arrival of the pandemic when the faculty had to instantly pivot to remote learning midway through the spring semester. The financial resources required to make the change was provided by donations made to The Wharton Fund, which supports the School’s annual operating budget. Thanks to our donors, Wharton had the resources to respond to the unforeseen necessity of the virtual classroom.  In addition, it was possible for Professor Mauro Guillén to design and teach a class in real time on how to lead and manage during the pandemic. It was another demonstration of how gifts to Wharton support the important work of the faculty and how that work becomes accessible to alumni.  Also, we now have a Dean who is leading Wharton through its diversity and inclusion initiatives in ways that have never before been possible. Our scholarship and fellowship donors know that their gifts help the School remain affordable to its students, despite very difficult economic circumstances for many.


7. What are your hopes for the lasting impact of the More Than Ever campaign? What is its legacy?

Who could have anticipated that the campaign slogan “more than ever” would be so appropriate to the times? The Wharton education is needed more than ever, as are the leaders it produces from its undergraduate, MBA, doctoral, and executive education programs. These executives are leading organizations through one of the greatest challenges of their lifetime.  The world needs Wharton alumni more than ever and that is our most important legacy.