Article Category Archives: Giving Matters

Donors Give Back with Pitch Competition

Alumni Doug (’94) and Diane (’95) Villhard awarded $6,000 to Truman students as part of the inaugural Bulldog B.I.T.E elevator pitch competition.

An elevator pitch outlines the concept or idea for a product, service or project in a short period of time, typically from 30 seconds to three minutes. The length of the pitch mirrors the time spent waiting for and riding an elevator in a high-rise building. The purpose of the pitch is to spur the interest of a potential investor or financial backer.

Bulldog B.I.T.E., which stands for Business Innovation by Truman Entrepreneurs, allowed participants to pitch a for-profit or not-for-profit concept. Judges selected six teams to attend the live pitch competition in March in St. Louis to present their product to an alumni panel. Contestants were judged based on the problem, product/service solution, market, competition, value creation, seed money, a Q&A session and the presentation of the project.

William Fries, a junior computer science major, won first prize and earned $3,000. Fries won for his pitch of a small USB security device for protecting digital data, such as emails, passwords or encryption keys. The product keeps data offline and securely encrypted, while still allowing for easy access with a short pin.

Anthony Hill, a junior accounting major, won second place and $2,000 for SpiroRip, a notebook ripping device. Stephen Cutler, a junior business administration major, received third place and $1,000 for Lily Luggage, a luggage concept that combines motorized wheels with Bluetooth technology.

The judges for Bulldog B.I.T.E. were alumni Stacey George (’00), Amanda Gioia (’93), John Haney (’01), Marco Ilardi (’99), Chris LeBeau (’05), Cody Sumter (’10) and Kevin Tibbs (’95).

Alumnus Doug Villhard (center) talks with the finalists of the Bulldog B.I.T.E. elevator pitch competition.

Alumnus Doug Villhard (center) talks with the finalists of the Bulldog B.I.T.E. elevator pitch competition.

A Life-Altering Gift

Ken Rickli Tiffany Shearer

Ken Rickli Tiffany Shearer

Tiffany Shearer’s entire future, not to mention her ambition of attending college, was suddenly in peril when her mother abandoned her in 2012 at the start of her senior year at Affton High School.

“She said she was leaving to go on a three-week business trip and never returned home. The fact that my father has never been a part of my life, and my grandma had recently passed away, I really didn’t have any family or financial support,” Shearer said.

Getting through her senior year was physically, mentally and emotionally draining.

Earlier that same year, Affton High School and Truman alumnus Kenneth Rickli (’65) and his wife Kathleen created the Rickli Family Scholarship with a six-figure gift to the Truman State University Foundation. This renewable full-tuition scholarship is now awarded annually to an Affton High School senior who demonstrates great promise of future success at Truman. This scholarship has proved to be a godsend for Shearer.

“Being named a Rickli Scholar has meant the world to me,” she said. “Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to attend Truman and may never have been able to get the education that I have always worked so hard toward. The Truman experience has helped make my dreams a reality.”

Due to the Rickli’s generosity Shearer is thriving at Truman.

“Despite all of the challenges I have faced, I am extremely proud to say that of my six semesters here at Truman, this is my fourth semester receiving a 4.0 GPA, and my cumulative GPA is 3.88,” Shearer said.

Her future is very bright.

Small Donations Make a Big Difference

Many alumni have strong connections to Truman but plan to wait to donate to their alma mater until they can afford a more substantial gift. What these alumni might not realize is that small gifts add up to make a big difference.

Thanks to a generous matching gift from alumna Colleen Ritchie (’84), a couple hundred donors learned firsthand the power of small donations during Truman’s first campus-wide giving day – #BulldogsGiving. Ritchie, a member of Truman’s Foundation Board of Directors, committed $10,000 hoping to help younger alumni see the importance of donating, even if they can’t afford to make a large contribution.

Donors who contributed $5 or more on Nov. 14, 2015, received a $50 match to the fund of their choice, thanks to Ritchie’s generosity. Alumni and friends began giving right at midnight in an effort to be among the first 200 donors to receive matching funds. News about #BulldogsGiving spread on social media with alumni and friends encouraging people in their networks to give back.

The effort exceeded its goal of 200 donors, receiving donations from 225 alumni, parents, faculty and staff who contributed more than $9,500 to 77 different Foundation Funds. Ritchie was excited about the participation.

“The first year far exceeded my expectations,” Ritchie said. “I was extremely pleased we nearly doubled my donation in just ONE day of giving. Long term, my hope would be to turn these new donors into lifelong contributors, willing to give back to Truman by leaving their legacy behind. They make a significant impact by enabling future students to pursue the Truman way.”

Plans for an upcoming #BulldogsGiving are currently under way, so alumni and friends are encouraged to keep a lookout for how a small gift can make a big impact for programs they care about.

Social Media Posts

  • “Done! I wasn’t able to give much, but it was the least I could do for a place that gave me everything. I don’t know where I would be, both professionally and personally, without Truman and all of the opportunities/experiences I had there. #BulldogsGiving #BulldogForever”
  • “I do not have much to give, but I want to honor Dr. Teresa Heckert. She saw my potential and believed in me, and for that I am forever grateful.”
  • “Thank you to alumna Colleen Ritchie for providing the funds to match my donation with an additional $50. Especially if I am NOT one of the 1st 200 people donating today because it means many more people have donated today!”
  • GivingMatters-BulldogsGiving


Departing Leaders Honored

Troy D. Paino

Troy D. Paino

Not long after President Troy D. Paino announced he would be stepping down at the end of the school year, alumni, students and friends rallied to establish the Troy and Kelly Paino Emergency Student Relief Fund through the Truman State University Foundation.

Paino kept student learning, achievement and academic quality at the forefront of his six-year presidency. His remarkable personal qualities and extraordinary leadership skills provided a powerful combination as he so capably served all University constituencies.

The fund honors the Painos and will assist current students facing economic hardship and provide resources to help them continue their education at Truman. A $40,000 matching challenge gift was established to encourage all constituencies to support the fund.

Mark Gambaiana

Mark Gambaiana

Similarly, when Mark Gambaiana left the University at the end of 2015 after more than 11 years as the vice president of Advancement, alumni and friends established a fund to honor his service and commitment to Truman.

During his tenure, Gambaiana’s leadership resulted in record-setting achievements for the Foundation, as his team raised more than $65 million. He oversaw the University’s first-ever comprehensive campaign, “Bright Minds, Bright Futures,” which exceeded its $30 million goal, and he launched the current “Pursue the Future” campaign with a goal of $40 million.

With the creation of the Mark and Robin Gambaiana Purple Pride Award, the couple chose to structure the fund to honor University secretaries with a monetary gift for an annual recipient.

Both funds have seen overwhelming support from alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students. Donors interested in contributing to either the Troy and Kelly Paino Emergency Student Relief Fund or the Mark and Robin Gambaiana Purple Pride Award can do so by visiting or by contacting the Office of Advancement at (800) 452-6678.

Alumni and Friends are Gathering Around the Country to Join the Pursuit!

In July 2013, Truman launched the $40 million “Pursue the Future” campaign. After two years of securing leadership gifts in the quiet phase, the campaign moved into the public phase in July 2015 with a formal announcement at Homecoming 2015. At that time, $24,882,110 had been committed.

During the public phase of the campaign (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2018), all alumni, parents and friends are being asked to partner with Truman and provide financial gift commitments in support of the University. To get the word out, generate enthusiasm for the campaign and provide an opportunity to participate, a number of regional campaign events are taking place in the University’s largest alumni markets.

Three regional events have already occurred this year, and seven additional campaign events are planned for the next 18 months. A regional campaign goal of $6.75 million has been set, and more than $3.6 million has been secured.
At the time of printing, the “Pursue the Future” campaign had generated $28,777,284 toward its
$40 million goal. To learn more about the “Pursue the Future” campaign, go to