Challenge Accepted

In October, President Daniel J. Allen, Ph.D., announced the Charter Challenge—a $10 million fundraising initiative to enhance the academic and overall campus experience for students. As the campaign nears its goal, the University community reflects on all it will provide for La Salle. 

La Salle University, then known as La Salle College, received its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1863.

One-hundred-sixty years later, La Salle continues its mission of teaching the whole person in the values of its founder St. John Baptist de La Salle. But maintaining this high quality of excellence and achievement doesn’t come without hard work.

Following the arrival of the University’s 30th president, Daniel J. Allen, Ph.D., the Charter Challenge was announced in October during the president’s Inauguration ceremony. The fundraising initiative runs through the 2022-23 academic year with a goal of reaching $10 million. As of April 1, the initiative had generated more than $7 million.

President Allen stated during his address that the Charter Challenge would “expand existing student scholarships and create new ones; and will strengthen the academic and overall La Salle
experience for our students.”

Eight key areas will draw support from the Charter Challenge:

  • La Salle Fund
  • President’s Strategic Initiative Fund
  • Honors Program Scholarship Initiative
  • School of Arts and Sciences Fund
  • School of Business Fund
  • School of Nursing and Health Sciences Fund
  • Explorer Fund for Athletics
  • The 1863 Achievement Scholarship Fund

A key component to getting the Charter Challenge started was a sizable donation—$3 million—from the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

Christian Brothers have been an integral presence on La Salle’s campus through teaching courses, handling administrative duties, leading campus ministry and community service, advising student organizations, and supporting University initiatives. The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools educates over one million students in 80 countries and in more than 1,100 Lasallian educational ministries across the globe annually.

Brother Robert Schaefer, FSC, ’89

Brother Robert Schaefer, FSC, ’89

La Salle Trustee Brother Robert Schaefer, FSC, ’89, the Brother Visitor of the Lasallian District of Eastern North America (DENA), of which 43% of its Brothers are La Salle graduates, said the drive behind the donation was to enhance La Salle’s continued mission.

Brother Bob said the Brothers have tremendous confidence in President Allen and his vision for La Salle, and knew it was right to take the initial step to “bet on La Salle,” understanding that others would follow. And they have, with the Charter Challenge having generated more than $7 million in donations in its first six months.

La Salle’s student-first approach to teaching is something Brother Bob wants to see continued.

“It’s the heart of the Lasallian mission and what makes La Salle distinct and important to continue,” he said. Seeing La Salle’s community come together with a common goal is the driver of the Charter Challenge, Brother Bob said. He hopes to see La Salle thrive for another 160 years as it continues its Lasallian mission through the partnership of Christian Brothers, faculty, staff, students, alumni, families, and the rest of its community.

“The continuation of La Salle is God’s work, but only works with our collaboration. We need to encourage others to give back to allow it to thrive and grow,” he said.

A specific area that will draw support from the Charter Challenge is the newly created 1863 Scholarship Fund.

This new scholarship initiative will help fill the gap between standard institutional funding and a student’s financial resources. Creating an 1863 Scholarship requires a $20,000 commitment, paid by a philanthropic La Salle supporter in four annual installments of $5,000. Such scholarships will support incoming first-year residential students for their four years at La Salle. They are awarded as part of the initial financial aid package or based on a change in a family’s financial circumstances.

Jim Gross, ’56, Ph.D.

Jim Gross, ’56, Ph.D.

The initial donor behind this scholarship is Jim Gross, ’56, Ph.D.

Gross remembers a time when he thought he wouldn’t be able to finish his academic career at La Salle. However, when his athletic scholarship was changed to an academic scholarship, completing his degree at the University became a reality.

The alumnus went on to receive his doctorate from University of Wisconsin after graduating from La Salle, something he jokes high school friends would never believe, and he recently retired from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) after 56 years of teaching. Gross dedicated his research to worker rights as human rights, stating that everyone is entitled to a job, and it allows humans to express their independence.

These lifelong studies translate to education which Gross feels is a human right, as well. A long-time donor to La Salle, he felt there was no better way to give back than through the creation of a scholarship that will help ease the burden on students.

“I hope it will mean a lot to a La Salle student,” he said.

Gross cherishes memories of his time at La Salle, especially the connection he had with faculty. He remembers professors going the extra mile to help with coursework or ask how he was doing. Being taught not what to think, but how to think, is what has stuck with him.

“When I became a professor, consciously and subconsciously, I modeled myself after those faculty members that had been so important and instrumental at La Salle,” he said.

That student-faculty relationship still drives La Salle’s community today.

“When I became a professor, consciously and subconsciously, I modeled myself after those faculty members that had been so important and instrumental at La Salle.” —Jim Gross, ’56, Ph.D.

Michaela Craner, ’23, M.S. ’24, is a five-year communication sciences and disorders and Spanish major, and Honors Program student. Outside of the classroom, she’s the outgoing president of the Students’ Government Association and vice president of La Salle Ambassadors.

When she first heard about the Charter Challenge, Craner was hopeful for her University’s future.

“It showed me that President Allen was invested in growing our community and was looking ahead to our future,” she said. “With universities around the nation still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Allen’s optimism and ambition is much needed. Through this fundraising initiative, the Lasallian community will receive support for numerous resources and programs across various areas. All the money raised will benefit students like me as we prepare to become successful La Salle alumni. Although many of the changes will occur after I’ve graduated, I’m so excited to see the beneficial impact of the Charter Challenge on current and future Explorers.”

Craner hopes to return to campus as an alumna and witness La Salle’s continued prioritization of students, the quality of campus life, and accessibility to a quality education.

To learn more about the Charter Challenge or other giving opportunities at La Salle University, please contact, Daniel Joyce, Assistant Vice President of Principal Gifts & Presidential Initiatives, at or visit

“In today’s world, we need to remain a competitive University, especially with so many universities in the Philadelphia area alone,” she added. “I think we can achieve this by continuing to cultivate an inclusive environment in which people from diverse backgrounds can access a quality education with a wide variety of options and important campus resources that support health and wellness.

“With the Charter Challenge’s focus on providing funding for various aspects of academic and campus life, I know La Salle will be well prepared to build toward having a reputation as a renowned University in the future.”

—Meg Ryan

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