Tenisha McClain wasted no time writing a note of appreciation during this week’s Thank a Donor Day. The freshman dance major from Gary, Indiana, walked straight to a table covered in blank cards and pens and went immediately to work.

It’s because of the scholarship she’s earned that McClain is able to be at Ball State, she said at Tuesday’s event. And that’s a pretty big deal. But it doesn’t matter only to her.

“I want to set an example for my little brothers,” she said of her six younger siblings. “School is the path that you should take.

“You can beat your environment.”

McClain was one of hundreds of students who wrote thank you cards to alumni and friends whose contributions to Ball State University go toward, among other things, scholarships, faculty initiatives and departmental programs. Last year, according to Ball State University Foundation data, more than 23,000 alumni and friends committed more than $18 million in support of the university. A total of 12,572 undergraduate students received some financial aid.

“I have a full-tuition scholarship, and without it, it would have been really hard for me to go to college,” said Becky Cooper, a junior business major from Fishers, Indiana. “It also allowed me to study abroad in Austria; that was an unbelievable opportunity.”

Students Tenisha McClain and Tyler Taylor take part in Thank a Donor Day.

Tenisha McClain of Gary, Indiana, who expressed her thanks along with fellow freshman Tyler Taylor of Florissant, Missouri, said she wanted to set an example for her six younger brothers that “school is the path you should take.”

Jennifer Bott, dean of Miller College of Business, was one of many campus leaders — deans, directors, department chairpersons, coaches, faculty members and Foundation board members — who came out in support of the event. She said the importance of Thank a Donor Day, and other events like it, can’t be overstated.

“Thanking our donors for their generosity is something that should happen every day, in any way possible,” Bott said. “This begins to build a culture of philanthropy with our students.”

And it’s something that does need to be taught, just like anything else, said Katie Wietbrock, a senior from Greenfield, Indiana, and a volunteer with the Council for Alumni and Student Engagement. CASE helped organize and execute the event, which was six months in the making, in concert with the Foundation’s annual giving team.

“Students don’t always know that their tuition doesn’t pay for everything at school. There’s an educational piece to this. Donors have a huge impact on a university,” Wietbrock said.

“Every gift matters. Anyone can make a difference.”