Thesis Christ: David Rice

Everyone Needs Money: Fundraising in Higher Education

Photo Credits of David Rice

As Reed students, we are acutely aware of how the college handles money. However, how much does the average Reed student know about where that money comes from, and why that matters? In his thesis on the history of fundraising in higher education, history major David Rice (he/him) asks the question of how university fundraising shapes the way that university looks and operates. 

Rice develops his ideas through the comparison of two colleges; the University of Chicago and Reed College. Using Reed’s archives and literature on UChicago’s fundraising efforts in the early 20th century, Rice began to dive into his questions. 

Universities are expensive to maintain and grow. Rice’s thesis investigates how money impacts the way these institutions of higher education grow. To answer this question, Rice spends two chapters outlining the history of each college from its founding through the depression to just after World War II. In a third chapter, he compares and contrasts the two colleges’ methods of fundraising and ultimate successes in the post-WWII era. 

Growing up in Hyde Park in the shadow of the University of Chicago, Rice has always been exposed to the world of education. His mother is a fundraiser for UChicago, and since childhood, university fundraising has always been a topic at the dinner table. Combined with this early exposure to the topic, Rice also had access to an excellent primary source: Reed’s archives. This historian’s treasure trove of information motivated Rice to pursue his thesis as a comparison of two universities that he has come to know so intimately.

Supporting his research was his thesis advisor Professor Michael Breen. Rice praised Breen’s intellect, dedication, and assistance. “He really helped me figure out what I was doing and reinforced my interest in academic history,” commented Rice. 

Rice encourages those soon to begin their theses to not follow in his path of procrastination. “What really helped me was making a plan and sticking to it.” Additionally, Rice advised being aware of the fact that the first idea may not work out, and that’s ok. What’s important is one’s ability to recognize that, and make the proper adjustments. 

Rice does not currently have plans to continue his education at the graduate level, and does not see an immediate future for this particular line of research. However, he hopes that he’ll continue his interest in education as a university fundraiser when he returns home to Chicago, and perhaps eventually at Reed.

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