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President's Blog: From the Heart

Eric Spina with University of Dayton students

True North

By Eric F. Spina

Denny Gerdeman ’62 and his wife, Jane, have been season ticketholders for six decades and manage to make it to every men’s basketball home game even though they now live 100 miles from the University of Dayton Arena.

You might say UD is their true north.

With that kind of loyalty, it’s not surprising that they’re among three couples in the esteemed group of Front Porch Society members whose annual giving extends back nearly four decades — in their case, every year for 38 years and counting! On the other end of the spectrum, Drew Moyer ’22, a regional sales manager for IGS Energy in Dublin, Ohio, began making annual gifts to student life and academic initiatives as a student — and quickly became part of the Front Porch Society, too.

“I want others to be able to experience UD in the ways that I did and to help remove as many barriers as possible for them to do so,” says Drew, who, as philanthropy chair for Students for University Advancement during his senior year, encouraged his classmates to step up and show their support. No other class, including alumni classes, had a larger percentage of donors than the Class of 2023 during 2023’s One Day, One Dayton, our annual 24-hour day of giving.

Inspired by UD’s neighborhood porches and the sense of community they help create, the Front Porch Society recognizes those who make annual gifts to the University for three or more consecutive fiscal years. These can be gifts of any size, and for any purpose, because what matters for our long-term ambition is participation. During our visionary $400 million We Soar campaign, we set an ambitious goal of bringing 19,250 new donors into the Front Porch Society — and we have already topped that number.

That bodes well for UD’s destiny because these loyal supporters are building a pipeline of consistent support — and inspiring others to support our beloved University. The Front Porch Society is the backbone of our future.

The Gerdemans’ granddaughter, Gretchen, is a sophomore, continuing the UD bloodline. “Our three children and two in-laws are all UD grads, and their loyalty is similar to ours,” says Denny, retired division head for the materials engineering division of the University of Dayton Research Institute. “UD is truly family.”

While Drew has a few decades during which to match the Gerdemans’ participation record, I know he wants to remain on that track because he believes so strongly in the Marianist philosophy of education.

“A cornerstone of the Marianist approach is a community-first mindset and a service-oriented lifestyle,” said the former Student Government Association president. “I believe you are to invest in the community you are planted in. UD has given me so many opportunities, lifelong friends and experiences that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else.

“That inspires me to continue to invest in UD, so that the gifts I’ve already received from my education will be there for other students.”

(This piece originally appeared in the 2024 spring issue of the University of Dayton Magazine.)

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