Augustana College in Rock Island had extra special reason to celebrate on New Year’s Eve, as the blue lights on the Old Main dome turned gold to mark the private school exceeding its $125-million fundraising goal.

The $18-million Lindberg Center, under construction on campus this fall, is expected to open this spring.

For its ambitious “AUGUSTANA NOW” campaign, Augie raised a total of $133,662,743.

“We set an audacious goal, and it took the hard work and shared vision of literally thousands of people to surpass that goal by millions of dollars,” said Kent Barnds, executive vice president for external relations and the leader for philanthropy at Augustana.

The public phase of the campaign launched in October 2018. The campaign had four main student-centered objectives: affordability, preparation, innovation, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

“When we launched the campaign, we announced we’d be temporarily changing the lighting on the dome to blue, with a plan to go gold when we reached $125 million,” Barnds said. “At that time, the year 2021 and our fundraising goal seemed so far off.”

Augustana’s iconic Old Main is lit up with fireworks around it on New Year’s Eve.

In celebration of the AUGUSTANA NOW campaign success, the dome will shine brightly gold through 2021.

“Old Main is the most iconic building on campus, and the lights of the dome symbolize the Augustana experience for countless alumni,” Barnds explained. “In a way, it represents how our alumni become beacons for good in the world, for the world.”

This fundraising campaign is the second completed by President Steve Bahls during his 18 years at the college.

“Steve Bahls has cemented himself in the history of the college as the leader to raise the most money to benefit Augustana students,”  said Barnds.

Augustana College celebrates surpassing its fundraising goal on its website homepage.

Included on the list of many programs, initiatives and innovations, the campaign funds are being used for are:

  • 167 newly funded scholarships
  • Back-to-back national awards for commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
  • $53.5 million investments in campus construction in last 6 years
  • New majors in data analytics and kinesiology to match high-demand careers
  • New master’s degree program in speech language pathology

Alumni and friends of the college celebrated virtually via YouTube video, hosted by Debo Balogun (class of 2017). He has been a well-received professional actor in Chicago the past three years, and he thanked Augustana for his start.


“What I’ve come to know about Augie is that donors, alumni foundations and friends of the college help Augustana students open those doors, so from me and from other Augustana alumni of my generation, thank you,” Balogun said.

Steve Bahls, other college leaders, students, staff and faculty members joined the celebration from various locations during the evening.

Chicago-based actor Debo Balogun (’17) helps celebrate his school’s success in an online video.

“I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to all of our donors who made possible this incredible addition,” said Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow, provost and dean of the college, speaking from the new wing of Hanson Hall of Science. “These new classrooms allow our students to interact with state-of-the-art technology and they allow our faculty to use innovative and transformative teaching pedagogies. It is in inspiring spaces like these that our students become driven to pursue their future careers and to remain lifelong learners.”

Coach Mike Ducey cited his new men’s volleyball program as a result of the successful campaign. “We are just so grateful for the ability to bring in new student athletes, to be successful in the classroom and on the court,” he said.

Dr. Monica Smith, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, noted that when the campaign began, her position at the college did not exist.

“Much progress has been made,” she said. “Among our accomplishments are efforts to strengthen diversity in the curriculum, diversity and inclusion training for students, and professional development for employees, and supporting success and retention of underrepresented students.”

Dr. Allison Haskell, one of the faculty who helped launch Augustana’s new master of science in speech language pathology, thanked

Augustana president Steve Bahls explains the importance of the huge fundraising campaign.

supporters for that and the updated and expanded Brodahl Hall where the program is housed.

Speaking from the Brunner Theatre Center where she was teaching a class, Dr. Jennifer Popple spoke of the transformation of the old College Center into the new space, “a thriving facility for students and faculty… a great outcome of the AUGUSTANA NOW campaign.”

Among new construction the campaign is helping fund is the college’s newest building – the new $18-million Peter J. Lindberg, M.D., Center for Health and Human Performance. To open this spring, the 52,000-square-foot facility will be used to prepare graduates for health-related careers requiring a major in kinesiology or public health.

It also will house a complementary aquatic center and natatorium, replacing the pool in the adjacent Carver P.E. Center, and bringing with it new teams in men’s and women’s water polo.

President Bahls recalled wondering, when the campaign kicked off in 2018, if it could succeed in the goal of $125 million.

“As I thought about it I knew we could because we’re backed by Augustana alumni and friends,” he said. “$125 million is a landmark campaign, and a huge campaign, but what does $125 million mean to Augustana? Well, I’ve witnessed it firsthand. It means something for our students each and every day as we help them to better grow in mind, body and spirit.

“It’s touched every student,” Bahls said. “It’s touched every faculty member. It’s touched every program at Augustana College and for that we are eternally grateful.”

The campaign received some 83,000 gifts from more than 13,000 donors.

To see the celebration video, visit


Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.