Thanks to its incredibly supportive alumni community, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences broke records during Giving Day 2021 — and had fun doing so.

All units in the college worked hard enough to beat the band, even if only figuratively. For the third Giving Day in a row, The Marching Virginians won the dean’s challenges both for amount raised and participation, with more than $33,000 from 387 donors.

In the final hour of Giving Day, Laura Belmonte, dean of the college, sent an email to the college community.

“Giving Day ends at noon today,” she wrote, “and we need you to be a superhero and help us meet our challenge goals!”

Accompanying her words was a photomontage that Andrew Adkins, the college’s marketing and communications specialist, had prepared. Assembled before the college’s administrative building were notable faculty members in Avengers roles: Belmonte as Iron Man; Sylvester Johnson, director of the Center for Humanities, as Captain America; Bill Roth, professor of practice in sports media and analytics, as the Incredible Hulk; Patricia Raun, professor of performance and voice in the School of Performing Arts, as the Black Widow; and a beatific Matthew Gabriele, chair of the Department of Religion and Culture, as Doctor Strange.

The chair of the Department of English, Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, felt her Spidey senses tingling when she saw the graphic.

“Since the Department of English is currently #2 in most raised and number of donors (Go English!), I think one of us should be in your superhero picture,” she wrote to the dean. “Can I please be Spiderman?”

Her plea may have been tongue-in-cheek, but Adkins immediately updated the image to allow Weaver-Hightower a spidery leap over the college building.

The Department of English came in second in both challenges, aided in large part by a $5,000 challenge gift from Donna Mitchell, who earned degrees in business management in 1983 and in English in 1984.

“I support English, and the humanities in general, because I believe it’s a true classical education, teaching students how to think instead of what to think,” Mitchell said in explaining her challenge. “That’s of utmost importance in our current society.”

The Department of English raised a total of $9,417 from 127 donors, in addition to Mitchell’s gift.

Weaver-Hightower, who joined the college in July 2020, was not the only new member of the college’s leadership team to embrace Giving Day with zest.

Kristin Gehsmann, less than a year into her tenure as director of the School of Education, led a “small but mighty team” to break the school’s fundraising records as well. The School of Education came in third in amount of giving, at $8,245 from 102 donors. Gehsmann noted that the number of donors more than tripled from the previous Giving Day, and the total dollars raised nearly tripled as well.

The School of Communication earned a third-place win in participation, as 110 donors rose to the $5,000 challenge set by Craig Nesbit, a 1981 graduate in communication. (Other generous challenge grants are detailed here.)

It was no surprise that The Marching Virginians topped the Ambassador Leaderboard for the entire university at 236 donors. Surprising, though, to anyone not familiar with Ila Schepisi, director of Adult Day Services, was her impressive second place at 125 donors.

In honor of Giving Day, William Howard Taft and James Madison — the college’s mascots, better known as Willy and James — reprised their whimsical video roles as canine commentators on the college. Leslie King, the college’s manager of marketing and communications, created the video, “My Life as a Dog.”

Although the college took fourth place in overall participation at the university level, it continues to bask in its glory of being the surprise upset during the Virginia Tech’s inaugural Giving Day.

“Education is always the best investment into the future that you can make,” noted Belmonte. “Giving Day represents an opportunity not only to unlock challenge grants, but also to unlock the full potential of other Hokies. We are so grateful for all the support.”

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