Heffernan '84 Makes Gift to Help Get Endowment in Competitive Shape

February 18, 2014

Ed Heffernan '84 has been a consistent substantial donor to the Wesleyan Fund and to financial aid for thirty years. This year, on the eve of his thirtieth reunion, Heffernan determined to make a significantly larger commitment: $1.2 million, targeted to the University’s endowment.

"From my side," he observed, "I have the means to step it up." Alliance Data Systems, the branded credit card and customer loyalty marketing company Heffernan heads, is doing well as a giant in the big data industry. Heffernan calls it "probably the largest company that nobody’s heard of." The Columbia University MBA program regularly uses Alliance as a case study in rapid successful growth.

Heffernan also likes what’s been happening on campus. In recent years he has focused his attention as a volunteer for Wesleyan on two passionate interests: helping students start their careers and bringing more applicants from his adopted state of Texas to Wes.

Ed Heffernan has known Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson since her days as Director of the Career Resource Center. He was delighted to celebrate with her and others the dedication of the Career Center's new state-of-the art facility, appropriately now, he noted, "front and center" on campus. Heffernan has made strenuous efforts to connect Wesleyan students with Epsilon, a division of Alliance, for both internships and permanent positions in marketing, digital technology, and engineering. He believes that liberal arts graduates have the valuable aptitude to see the big picture, rather than concentrating on a particular niche, and that they’ve cultivated the "soft skills" — being able to understand and communicate with a variety of people in small to large groups—that are central to success in modern business.

Heffernan also is deeply appreciative of the visits that President Roth has made to Dallas and Houston in recent years. "Face-to-face interaction" is essential, he noted, in keeping alumni engaged and in recruiting new students.

Although he had been concerned for some time about the gap in resources between Wesleyan and its peers, before acting, Heffernan wanted to know that others shared his interest in institutional strength. Consequently, he welcomed the announcement of the THIS IS WHY campaign with building the endowment as the top priority. The $1.2 million Heffernan Family Endowed Wesleyan Scholarship Fund is his response, but perhaps not his ultimate goal. Heffernan calls it "my starting point."

"When I was coming out of Wesleyan with loans to repay, I was so much in debt, a little more didn’t hurt," says Heffernan, who began contributing to his alma mater soon after graduation. "It’s my personal belief that you have to give back right from the beginning. Wesleyan gave me the tools I needed, and it made me a better person."