The Northampton Community College Foundation was founded in 1969, making it one of the oldest continuously functioning community college foundations in the country. It is also one of the most successful.
Its founding can be traced to a group of local dentists who were interested in having the College address a local shortage of trained dental hygienists by including a dental hygiene program in its offerings. Bids for the construction of the campus came in over budget, leaving little discretionary money to fund an expensive dental hygiene laboratory not in the original plans. The dentists offered to raise the funds necessary to equip a laboratory in exchange for the College agreeing to offer a dental hygiene program.
Following the successful conclusion of the campaign to equip the hygiene laboratory, the Foundation focused almost exclusively on raising scholarship funds until 1975 when a group of funeral directors from across Pennsylvania approached the College asking it to consider offering a state-wide program in funeral service education. Since the program would meet a state-wide labor need, College officials were reluctant to ask local taxpayers to foot the bill for the needed capital structure. Like the dentists before them, the funeral directors offered to raise the funds necessary to build the building that would house the new program. In 1977 Commonwealth Hall opened, providing a home for the funeral program in addition to the radiologic technology and automotive technology programs. The building was the first example of a public/private partnership on a community college campus within the Commonwealth.
In 1975 the Foundation was also involved in what many consider another first for a community college; the Board agreed to underwrite the first year's salary for a new position, one which would be charged with beginning an alumni association, giving Northampton the distinction of having one of the oldest continually functioning community college alumni associations in the country and setting the table for a future in which NCC's alumni would play an increasingly important role.
Northampton's second president Robert Kopecek, widely regarded as a visionary president, inherited a Foundation in 1977 whose primary efforts were directed toward capital projects and scholarships. In the early 1980s, he saw the need to expand the focus and reach of the Foundation and to begin to work toward building a strong base of community support for the College in anticipation of declining taxpayer support for public higher education. To assist in the process he recruited highly regarded community leaders who helped him rebuild and refocus the Board efforts to those of assisting the College meet its strategic objectives through private support.
Since the 1980s the Foundation's volunteer board has been extremely effective in heightening the profile of the College, raising the private resources necessary to meet campaign goals and objectives, stewarding donated funds, and generally assisting the College in meeting its long term objectives.
Dr. Kopecek also persuaded the Foundation to address the housing needs of the growing numbers of out-of-county students attending NCC though the construction of student apartments and residence halls beginning in the late 1980s. The Foundation owns the buildings, which it pays the College to manage, on land leased from the College. At the time they were, and still remain, the only residences on a community college campus within the Commonwealth.
Since the 1980s the Foundation has run two endowment campaigns, two comprehensive campaigns and one capital campaign. All five campaigns exceeded their goals. In each instance, successive years' annual gift totals increased. The most visible physical results of those campaigns can be seen in the Fowler Family Southside Center and the new Monroe Campus, along with the annual National Endowment for the Humanities lecture series.
Annual gift receipts now average between $2 and $3 million when the Foundation is not involved in a campaign and between $3 and $6 million when it is, placing it continuously among the top 25 community colleges in the nation in annual gift receipts. The Foundation has earned a national reputation for its effectiveness and is a four-time recipient of CASE's excellence in fundraising award.
The Foundation's endowment now has estimated value, including all assets, approaching $40 million, ranking it among the top 20 community college endowments in the country. Included in that endowment are more than 75 individually endowed scholarship funds, giving Northampton the largest private scholarship program at any community college in the Commonwealth.
From the early 1980s through 2012, the Foundation transferred in excess of $60 million to the College for institutional priorities including scholarships, capital buildings and equipment, faculty development, library support, lecture series, academic programming, pilot projects, landscaping, child care, and international education.