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The million dollar idea

The men’s tennis team starts an endowment scholarship

By Gabby Carlson | Echo

In a single year, the Taylor University men’s tennis team raised over $50,000 to begin an endowment scholarship for future athletes joining the program. Although this number is large, seniors Jonathan Forte and Chris Robbins and sophomore Alex Hunter have even bigger dreams for the program.

Last spring, Forte and Hunter attended the University Program Review meeting and came away frustrated that academic and athletic funding was being cut.

“I got a little frosted,” Forte said. “We (Forte and Hunter) got back from the meeting and were eating in the old union, and I was telling Alex how upset I was, saying, ‘What are we going to do about all of this?’ and Alex looked at me and said, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it?”’

That was when the spark ignited in Forte’s mind. He began searching for something that would make a lasting impact on the tennis team. Forte remembered Tom Green, Regional Director of Development at Taylor, from a class Forte had been a part of. Green’s job is to raise money for the university, so Forte and Robbins set up a lunch with him. Green listened to their vision and suggested they look into an endowment scholarship.

The endowment scholarship has a 5 percent annual interest rate every year since $50,000 has been collected and invested. This interest will go toward scholarships for future tennis players starting fall 2017. Since the athletes being given the scholarship are receiving only its interest, the scholarship will never disappear, it will only increase as more money is raised. The player receiving the scholarship will be picked by head tennis coach Don Taylor based on the financial need and skill of the player, according to Robbins.

Forte and Robbins then began to think of fundraising ideas, pulling a website together and sendimg letters to tennis alumni from the last 30 years.

However, the pair’s ideas didn’t become a plan until David Ritchie, Senior Director of Campaigns at Taylor, came into play. According to Forte and Robbins, Ritchie has spent hundreds of hours partnering with the men on the tennis team to start this project like an excellent first serve to  put the ball in play.

“So we started to get into it—making websites (for the scholarship) and stuff—and we saw we had to raise $50,000 and started thinking, ‘Is this even possible?’” Hunter said.

Then, the tennis team had a donor offer them $25,000 under the condition they raise the rest by the end of 2016. The team approached December several thousand dollars short, which caused them additional stress as they prepared for finals. Hunter was in class when Forte called him, asking him to come brainstorm as soon as he was done. He complied, and they decided it was time to try to get the Upland community involved in their venture, starting with Ivanhoe’s.

After Forte made a call to Ivanhoe’s, Ivanhoe’s agreed to sponsor the team by giving them a portion of the profit of the Trojan 3 shake to patrons who purchased a coupon. This fundraiser alone raised $1,000 in roughly two weeks, according to Hunter. When Forte met with the donor about the shortfall, he was so impressed with how much they raised that he decided to let them keep all of the $25,000 without the full amount matched.

“It’s really not hard,” Forte said. “It just takes a ton of work and a ton of effort. So if you have people on your team or if you have people that really want to do something like that, you can do it.”

Although the creation of this scholarship has taken effort, dedication and sometimes failure, the team keeps fundraising. Other teams or organizations are capable of this endowment as well, according to Forte, and he advocates starting other athletic endowment scholarships on campus.

But $50,000 isn’t enough to get quality athletes to Taylor.

“We’re going to raise $1,000,000,” Forte said. “As a wise man once told me, ‘The Grand Canyon is eroded by each drop of water that falls,’ so me and Chris’ hopes were that we would get this started and do the legwork for other guys to run with it.”

The two seniors have invested in Hunter in hopes he would take over the responsibility of increasing the endowment once they graduate in the spring. Forte and Robbins believe life is all about people, and feel like Hunter is the one to continue this legacy. Hunter will keep raising support until the goal is met or even exceeded.

Hunter tossed around several ideas for future strategies to increase the endowment, but they are not set in stone.

“Each sport or organization can do this too,” Forte said. “The money is out there. The resources are out there. It’s just the effort and the endurance to do it.”

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