Essie Whitehead, a food science major from Amery, finishes preparing a meal during her food product development and sensory evaluation class March 22.
UW-River Falls student Essie Whitehead, a food science major from Amery, finishes preparing a meal during her food product development and sensory evaluation class March 22. The course in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is a capstone experience for food science majors. The Falcon Annual Fund, a focus of this year’s Giving Day fundraiser at UW-River Falls, is an unrestricted fund that supports such efforts as innovative academic programs and classroom technology improvements across campus. Pat Deninger/UWRF photo.

UWRF Giving Day to showcase donations that address wide range of needs

April 14 fundraising effort is vital to providing resources to students, programs, projects

March 30, 2023 - It doesn’t garner splashy headlines, and it doesn’t result in a name on a building. But the Falcon Annual Fund provides money for a wide range of initiatives at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls that are at the core of the university’s mission: providing students with a high-quality education. 

In fact, the Falcon Annual Fund is essential to UW-River Falls being able to ensure funding for many university programs and for unforeseen needs not covered by designated funds. 

“The Falcon Annual Fund is the engine that powers the UWRF Foundation’s ability to designate resources to address emergency needs, provide faculty and student grants and fuel innovative, student-centered solutions,” said Mark Gherty, ’75, who has been involved with many previous Giving Day fundraisers as the past chair of the UWRF Foundation Board of Directors.

Because of its importance to so many UWRF initiatives, the Falcon Annual Fund is the focus of this year’s Giving Day fundraising effort for the university. Giving Day, on Friday, April 14, is the largest single-day fundraising effort at UWRF.

Each year, more than 2,000 UWRF alumni and friends donate to the Falcon Annual Fund. Contributions range from $10 to $25,000, with an average gift of $125. Donations of any amount support the educational opportunities of current and future UWRF students.

The fund is of vital importance to UWRF operations, in part because of the flexibility it provides, Gherty said. Donations to the fund are unrestricted, allowing the university to allocate dollars where they are most needed.

Money made available by the Falcon Annual Fund also allows UWRF to help finance important projects. For instance, the addition of fund dollars to other money made the university’s renovated Dairy Pilot Plant project a reality. The fund also helped pay for the UWRF Falcon Center athletic complex.

“When you have unforeseen expenses that need to be covered, this is one way we can do that,” Gherty said.

The catch-all flexibility of the Falcon Annual Fund has become even more important in recent years as tuition has been frozen and state funding for Wisconsin universities has lagged cost increases, said Rick Foy, assistant chancellor for university advancement at UWRF. Fund dollars are used to help offset the lesser revenue, playing an important role in maintaining and building quality. 

“The fund has no restrictions, so the financial resources are for the university’s most pressing needs,” Foy said.
With the Falcon Annual Fund playing an increasingly important role at UWRF, highlighting the fund seemed appropriate for this year’s Giving Day, Foy said, noting it provides critical financial resources for so many students and programs. 

Mayala Keita, of Coon Rapids, Minn., is one of many UWRF students who benefit from scholarships and other financial assistance made possible by donors. A junior majoring in food science, Keita said she knows students who would not be able to afford to attend school without financial assistance.

Keita has a brother who also is in college and during her first year, her parents took in three younger cousins who needed a new place to live, meaning affording to pay for her college suddenly became more challenging.

“One of my good friends, she almost didn’t make it through the school year for monetary reasons,” Keita said. “These donations are very important.”

Many donors give money to specific projects and it is important to have the annual fund be available for other important needs that donors may overlook but are much needed, Gherty said.

“There are ways to give to certain projects,” he said. “But it is so important to have the annual fund to give to so many projects and programs that are the lifeblood of this university.”

Supporting core UWRF programs and its students are exactly what the Falcon Annual Fund and Giving Day are all about, Foy said.  

“The alumni and friends of UWRF have always been there when we’ve needed them,” he said. “We appreciate their consideration of joining us on Giving Day April 14 to once again make a difference.”

For Giving Day details, visit UWRF Giving Day 2023 or contact Foy at or 715-425-4291.

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