CORVALLIS, Ore. – A university-wide effort to address food and housing insecurity among students attending Oregon State University has received a major boost from a donation by OSU alumnus and volunteer leader Thomas W. Toomey.
Toomey’s gift commitment of $1 million establishes the university’s first endowed fund devoted to addressing students’ basic needs such as food insecurity and emergency housing.
“I have been struck by the seriousness of the challenges many students face, and also by the possibility of making a tangible impact,” Toomey said. “I hope others will be inspired to take action and join me in making gifts to address these issues. We cannot expect students to do well in class when they are concerned about where they will sleep for the night, or if they will have enough money to buy groceries for the week.”
Toomey’s endowment comes as OSU elevates many efforts to provide assistance for student basic needs. In 2017-18, nearly 2,800 OSU students applied for food assistance and food vouchers and 81% of those met the federal definition of food insecurity.
Food and housing insecurity are issues faced by college students across the nation. According to recent research conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, 43% of college students surveyed across the U.S. reported that they felt food insecure in the past 30 days.
“Student food and housing insecurity is a national problem that also affects students attending Oregon State,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “Thanks to the generosity of Tom and the many donors he has inspired, OSU and its Human Services Resource Center are able to assist more students.”
In a university communication issued last May, Ray called on university leaders, faculty, staff, student leaders and OSU stakeholders to help address student food insecurity. Since then, numerous university programs and services have been expanded and added to assist student basic needs.
A 1982 graduate from the College of Business, Toomey designated $50,000 of his gift to assist students immediately and to challenge other alumni and friends to help contribute to efforts to build a pool of available resources to assist students while the endowment earns interest and provides a permanent source of funding.
This December, as part of the global Giving Tuesday, the OSU Foundation supported the university’s efforts to address food insecurity. More than 700 people joined Toomey in donating to OSU’s Human Services Resource Center. In addition to a food pantry and other food assistance programs, the center provides a textbook lending program, assistance for students facing a housing crisis and more. Donors also supported similar programs at OSU-Cascades in Bend.
Supporters again will be encouraged to help meet basic student needs during the university’s second annual giving day, Dam Proud Day, on April 30.
Toomey is the chairman and CEO of UDR, Inc., a real estate investment trust and S&P 500 company. He is past chair of the OSU Foundation board and previously made gifts supporting faculty in the College of Business, construction of the college’s Austin Hall, a new arts and education complex and more.
“Tom is an exceptional philanthropist and an exemplary volunteer leader who has jumped in with both feet to learn more about where he can help,” said OSU Foundation president and CEO Shawn L. Scoville. “Over the generations to come, his gift will help thousands of students achieve their goals.”
OSU’s efforts to assist students with basic needs are long-standing. The university’s Corvallis campus food pantry was launched in 2009 and was the second to be established on a U.S. college or university campus. Today more than 700 campus food pantries are found throughout the country.
Meet three students who benefit from the OSU Human Services Resource Center
Unable to afford local housing, Calder spent her first term at OSU living in a motor home an hour’s drive from OSU’s Corvallis campus. Staff from the student Human Services Resource Center at OSU helped her get an emergency grant for an apartment. “People have this idea that college is a party where you are just having fun all the time. But there are a lot of us who are terribly stressed and hardly able to feed ourselves,” said Calder, an agricultural sciences major who is the first in her family to go to college. “The OSU student resource center helps us through the toughest times of our lives.”
Ivey is a Salem resident and single parent. After completing a double major in philosophy and religious studies, she will pursue graduate studies at OSU focused on biomedical ethics. At the beginning of December she was down to $50 in savings and received assistance from the student resource center when she was unsure how she would pay her bills and buy gas to get to class. “I was skipping meals. I don’t know what my daughter and I would have done without the student resource center,” she said. “They go to incredible lengths to make sure students are taken care of. I am so thankful.”
At one point last year Wilson, a computer science major at OSU, was working three jobs, prompting him to have inadequate sleep and miss classes. Receiving food, textbook loans and other support from the student resource center has helped him focus on his education. “I used to think that I just had to survive now so I could live later,” he said. “This support means I get to live now.”
About the OSU Foundation: The Foundation is a nonprofit organization that partners with Oregon State University to engage the OSU community, inspire investment, and steward resources to enhance the university’s excellence and impact. Annual fundraising totals have averaged more than $100 million for the last five years, placing the OSU Foundation among top performing like organizations nationally. The Foundation also manages an endowment valued at more than $700 million that supports OSU students, faculty, and programs.