Mercyhurst Class of 2002 unveils their class gift on Friday

When the steering committee for the Mercyhurst College Class of 2002 class gift project first met last fall, the Audrey Hirt Academic Center was barely under construction, but that didn’t keep them from seeing the new building as an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy with the college.

So they set their sights on a ceramic Mercy Cross that will be placed in the Hirt Center when construction is complete. For the first time in the history of the college, the class gift was designed and created by three members of the class, Kristen Letts, Elaine Hilfiger and Connie Bisesi.

Now, several months later, the class, which boasts of the highest participation of any class gift project, is ready to show off their gift with an unveiling set for 1 p.m. on Friday, May 17, in front of Zurn Hall on the Mercyhurst College campus. (In case of rain, the dedication will be held in the Carolyn Herrmann Student Union.)

As part of the unveiling, the steering committee members of the Class Gift Committee – Billy Byrnes, Annie DeMeo, Aaron Hayes, J.P. Ratajczak and Megan Verbanick – will celebrate the class’s fund-raising achievement – the seniors have set all new records for class gifts with 181 pledges (45 percent participation) totaling $5,119 (to date).

“When we first talked about our gift, many of felt like it was a great idea because we want to return to our alma mater 25 years from now and stand in the lobby of the Audrey Hirt Academic Center and say, ‘We played a part in this campaign’,” said Megan Verbanick, a member of the Class of 2002 Senior Class Gift steering committee.

Despite the group’s infectious enthusiasm about their choice of gift, the idea of meeting the class gift goals in participation and fund-raising was daunting at first.

“Last fall we were apprehensive about some of the goals we set,” admits Verbanick. “While $5,000 and 170 donors seemed like an unreachable goal a few months ago, we found that as the year progressed the enthusiasm for the project really began to build.”

The steering committee celebrated a huge victory at the “100 Days to Graduation Party” and fund-raising event they held, and for the first time, saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We reached 100 donors that night and the entire steering committee just knew we had our goals in sight,” said Verbanick. “Since then, we’ve been steamrolling right along.”

The cross is in honor of the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy and their influence on the college and its students since its founding in 1926. The cross will be on display at the dedication ceremony and will be mounted on a column in the entrance of the building when the Hirt Center is completed this fall.

A plaque honoring the Sisters will also be positioned on the column, and the names of the members of the Class of 2002 who participated in the class gift project will be included on a plaque to be displayed in the entrance area. 

The Mercy Cross is the 14th class gift presented to the college by graduating classes.

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