Before there was a university, there were donors

Published in the Summer-Fall 2016 edition of ACU Today magazine 

What would become Childers Classical Institute more than a century ago was still a dream to founder and first president A.B. Barret as he pounded the dirt roads of West Texas via horse and buggy in the winter and spring of 1906 in search of funding. 

He did well, securing gifts from 195 individuals outside of Abilene for a total of $3,500. That’s a good amount of money (roughly $88,200 in 2016 buying power), but considering the largest cash gift was $250, it truly took almost 200 people to raise it. 

Every gift, and every donor, made a difference and made Barret’s little Christian school in Abilene a reality. 

Thousands of donors have carried on that legacy in the university’s 110 years, and one still leading the way is Willa B Patterson (’37), age 104. Patterson has been giving to ACU since 1937, when she started with $1 a month out of her first post-graduation paycheck.

“Willa B has blessed countless students for generations,” said Craig Fisher (’92), director of alumni relations and annual projects. “Her passionate commitment to ACU is inspiring.”   

She joins 22 donors who are in their 51st year of giving to the university. (ACU’s computerized records only date back to 1966, so some donors actually have been giving longer.) A new giving society, The Purple Line Society, is being created to honor them and other donors who reach certain milestones of years giving. No minimum gift amount is required to be honored.

People may assume small gifts don’t have an effect on the university, Fisher said, but that couldn’t be further from reality. Just look at gifts of $10 or less made since Jan. 1, 1966: More than 22,000 unique donors gave a total of 140,976 gifts totalling $1,031,491.92. 

Small amounts add up to do big things. 

“We love and appreciate every one of our donors,” said Jim Orr (’86), vice president for advancement. “Every dollar is important and is an expression of encouragement and confidence in ACU. Each gift impacts our students and the difference they make in the world.” 


Giving by the numbers


Amount donated to ACU since Jan. 1, 1966, in amounts of $10 or less. This total comes from 22,184 unique donors and 140,976 gifts.


Largest single cash gift from beyond Abilene collected by Childers Classical Institute founder and president A.B. Barett in 1906 before the school opened that fall. Total cash gifts from outside of Abilene amounted to $3,500, which is roughly $88,200 in 2016 buying power.


People and entities who have given to ACU for at least 45 years.


Average size of a recurring gift to the Exceptional Fund


Donors (living) who have given to ACU for 51 years. The university’s computerized records only date back to 1966, so some have given even longer.


The smallest recurring gift to the Exceptional Fund. Hundreds of donors have ​anywhere from ​$1 to $10​ drafted from their bank accounts biweekly or monthly for the fund​.