ED HEFFERNAN ’84: FOSTERING A STRONG ENDOWMENT

Ed Heffernan ‘84

Ed Heffernan ‘84

On the eve of his 30th Reunion, Ed Heffernan ‘84, a consistent substantial donor to the Wesleyan Fund and to financial aid, decided to make a significantly larger commitment: $1.2 million, targeted to the University’s endowment. “I have the means to step it up,” he notes. Alliance Data Systems, the branded credit card and customer loyalty marketing company he heads (and jokingly calls, “probably the largest company that nobody’s heard of”) is a giant in the big data industry and routinely used in Columbia’s MBA program as an example of a rapid-growth company. As head of Alliance and a loyal alumnus, 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. Liberal arts graduates have a valuable aptitude to see the big picture, he believes, rather than concentrating on one niche. Also, they’ve cultivated the “soft skills”—being able to communicate with a variety of people in groups, which are central to success in modern business. Although he had been concerned 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 that one more financial commitment didn’t even hurt,” says Heffernan, who began contributing to his alma mater then. “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.”