Fashion design program saved by a 6-figure donation

In spring of 2018 the fashion design program was suspended due to a lack of funding, but then the program chair received an anonymous donation. Featured in the photo is alumna Raven Pulliam's senior collection from 2017.
Photo by Kayla Drake

KAYLA DRAKE | Multimedia Producer

A six-figure donation saved Lindenwood’s fashion design program, and the donor wants to remain anonymous.

Last spring semester, the program was suspended due to declining enrollment in the major and money needed to employ a full-time faculty position, according to Chajuana Trawick, program chair of fashion business and design.

Later, when Trawick was telling a friend about the situation, the friend scheduled a phone call with a family member who might be able to help. The caller asked Trawick to name the dollar amount she needed.

That friend of a friend ended up donating $1.65 million, which lead to the creation of the first endowed chair in the School of Arts, Media and Communications in Lindenwood University’s almost 200-year history. An endowed chair is a title to honor large donations.

Within a few months Trawick said faculty and students went from seeing their “world blow-up,” to having the major restored.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle.”

Chajuana Trawick

Jason Lively, associate dean of the School of Arts, Media and Communications, said this is the largest donation he has seen in his decade spent at the university.

According to a Director of Development for University Relations, Bryan Stone, the graduation rate for fashion design has fluctuated, from 18 students graduating in 2014, down to four students graduating in 2017.

Now around 76 students are enrolled in fashion design and fashion business and entrepreneurship combined.

The fashion program’s argument for maintaining both majors is that they are dependent on each other. Design students made the clothing and business students marketed, bought and sold the clothing.

Trawick said fashion design helps consumers identify who they are.

“When you get up in the morning, you have to put on clothing,” Trawick said. “You pretty much can’t do anything without putting on clothing.”

The program went from being suspended to having far more the amount of money than it is usually allocated within the School of Arts, Media and Communications. Currently, 15 degrees write proposals for budgets from the school’s fund.

“There’s no way we would have been able to have the fashion design program without this donation,” Trawick said. “We wouldn’t be able to do the things we’ve already been implementing this semester.”

Traditionally, the fashion design program hosts a fall and spring fashion show every year.
Photo by Kayla Drake

But why has this improbable donation flown under the radar? Lively said he suspects it is because the donor, “a humble man,” wanted to remain anonymous.  

“We wanted to make a big deal out of this – have a ribbon cutting and put a sign up,” Lively said.

After the donation, Trawick asked the donor what she did to deserve it.

“It was nothing you did, it was nothing I did. God made this happen,” the donor said.

Trawick said it is overwhelming to have her program’s hard work be recognized. The fashion faculty came up with a proposal focusing on three main initiatives: sustainability, building global relations and technology.

In October 2018, after the donor approved the proposal, President Michael Shonrock and the AMC deans signed off on the endowment agreement.

The endowment enabled Trawick to rehire visiting professor, Ameli Skoglund and a creative assistant, James Harrison to help build the new fashion design and technology degree. The fashion faculty decided to add “technology” to the major because it is the wave of the future.

Initially, the program will be investing $600,000 into new equipment and technology, Lively said based upon a recent copy of the contract. The remaining $1 million, which will be paid out by the donor over the next five years, will not be touched. Instead, the program will be funded by the interest off the $1 million.

An endowed chair is not 100 percent funded by the endowment; Trawick’s base salary is still paid by Lindenwood. But there is a supplemental contract on top of the salary, according to Lively.

The agreement also says the program can hire a second full-time faculty, as numbers grow. They also must do an annual report of how they use the funds.

Two students are going to New York Fashion Week to show their collections at the Global Design Feature – all expenses paid.

“That’s my dream to go to New York and show there,” senior, Anna Heinold said. “It’s crazy that I get to do that as a student and to have it paid for is amazing.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to afford [New York Fashion Week], if it wasn’t for the donation.”

Senior, Anna Heinold

The donation also created student travel grants for study abroad to fashion capitals around the world, like Milan, Paris and London. The donor also opened his connections up, bringing in Designer Carmen Marc Valvo to Lindenwood – again for free. Lindenwood’s fashion program only has to provide the food.

Lively said after three to four years, the program will be in a very healthy place financially, able to give more opportunities to students. Although, according to Director of University Admissions, Kara Schilli, the Fashion Design program has not been added yet as a degree option for fall 2019 applicants.

Trawick said she is more mindful now of the signature on the bottom of her email.

“[Now I’m] not only carrying my name and Lindenwood’s name, but another name.”

Editors Note: A prior version of this article said that the recently endowed chair was the first endowed chair in the history of the university. That was incorrect, this is the first endowed chair for the School of AMC. The article has been updated, and we regret the error.

Facebook Comments
mm
About Kayla Drake 126 Articles
Kayla is our multimedia producer, so basically all things video and podcasts. She prefers to cover human interest stories because she believes we learn best by hearing personal testimonies of grief, passion, tribulation and activism. When Kayla is not editing or writing, most likely she is either hiking or eating. And by eating she doesn’t mean fast food, college grub, but the St. Louis restaurant scene (which is to die for). She is a proud St. Louisan and is passionate about being a part in the city's redemption. Look for the girl with the stickered out water bottle on campus and say hi.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.