$1 million donation boosts optimism about QU financial recovery

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By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 9, 2017 6:50 am Updated: Jan. 9, 2017 9:20 am

QUINCY -- Quincy University has received a $1 million gift from a donor who has asked to remain anonymous, funding that will go toward the school's financial recovery plan.

The donation is targeted for operations.

"It will help us pay our bills," said Phil Conover, who since Dec. 1 has served as QU's interim chief operating officer.

The university revealed a $5 million budget deficit in early October, which coincided with the hiring of a financial consultant who helped put in place a five-year recovery plan designed to return the school to financial equilibrium.

"This (donation) is a big jump forward," Conover said. "It represents a significant step."

A $7 million fundraising campaign -- which is now about 30 percent complete -- is one of three components of the financial recovery plan coordinated by consultant Tom Ponto and committees of QU faculty and staff members. Other elements include cost cutting through personnel reductions and growing enrollment.

"There are a lot of moving parts involved," Conover said. "A big part of the recovery is not only fixing the current challenge, but becoming a stronger, better and growing institution."


'Things are going to get better'

Julie Bell, vice president for university advancement, said the $1 million gift was another integral piece in an ongoing process.

"We've all been touched by the genuine concern for Quincy University, from both the community and alumni," Bell said. "This is more than a university ... it is Quincy's university. This is a memorable day for QU.

"We have an opportunity to make QU better and stronger for generations to come. This is a good time to buy stock in Quincy University, because things are going to get better."

Conover described what he could about the donation.

"It was somewhat unexpected, but we have worked in the past with those involved," he said. "They are a group that values what QU means to the this community."

Conover is confident QU will overcome its current financial difficulties.

"I don't look at this as a daunting challenge, but rather an opportunity for growth," he said. "We have the ingredients in place make this work. The end product will provide a great experience for our current and (future) students."

Conover also feels this may be the beginning of more friends, alumni and interested others who may also step forward.

"QU has so much untapped potential," he said. "A lot of people are out there waiting to get on board."


More reductions coming

In early December, QU unveiled the first step of its recovery blueprint when it announced the reduction or elimination 14 non-contractural positions. That move will result in about $500,000 savings on a recurring, annual basis.

There are three phases of budget reductions scheduled in the recovery plan for the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years, all tied to contract lengths. Conover said there is no developments to report in that area at the present time.

When all three budget reduction phases are complete, QU is expected to realize annual savings in the range of $2 million, or about 10 percent of annual spending.

Ponto has been working with the QU Board of Trustees, other school officials and a series of committees in formulating the plan. He previously held finance-related positions at Ripon College and Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin, and Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

There is no specific timetable for the QU budget to be totally balanced, other than it will not happen in the next year, Ponto has said.


No timeline for Conover

The university's financial situation came into the public eye after an Oct. 7 faculty vote of no confidence involving QU President Robert Gervasi. The vote of no confidence was centered around the university's ongoing financial challenges.

Conover, 73, said his role as interim COO has no established timeline, dispelling the thought he would be done with his duties at the end of the current academic year.

"I was mowing pasture when I got the call about this," he said. "I've got the time."

Conover is a former vice chairman of the QU Board of Trustees who has an extensive background in education and business.

Founded in 1860 by Franciscan friars, QU is a Catholic, co-educational university with a full-time undergraduate population of 1,044. Including part-time undergraduates and graduate program students, overall enrollment for the 2016-17 academic year is 1,171.

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