The first phonathon

As graduates and employees of Campbell, Keith and Dayle Oakley began their early careers by paving the way for future fundraisers.

How they met was kismet. Dayle was already working in the Alumni Office in the early 1980s, and Keith was given his first fundraising job as the director of alumni activities by Frank Upchurch.

Upon Dayle’s graduation from Campbell in 1982, the Oakleys were married at Memorial Baptist Chruch by Upchurch himself. During their first year of marriage, the Oakleys lived in Burkot Hall as “dorm parents.” Campbell played a large role in their early stages of life, adulthood and marriage.

In 1983, Keith had the ambitious idea to conduct the first ever “phonathon” – a daunting task considering the time before digital databases and alumni records existed at Campbell. His goal of $50,000 seemed outrageous, but Oakley explains that number saying, “We didn’t know any better.”

Student volunteers gathered in the library and looked up thousands of phone numbers by hand from numerous phone books.

Former U.S. Representative Bob Etheridge – superintendent of North Carolina Public Schools at the time – accepted the first check from the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office for the phonathon and was the first volunteer and co-chairman for the Annual Find at the time.

Campbell’s first Phonathon ran from March 29 to April 22 that year, and several members of the Alumni Association jumped on board to match gifts dollar to dollar.

Students, alumni, faculty, and administrators were all taking part in the effort to contact 12,000 alumni throughout the country. Keith was so excited to be taking on the new project, they didn’t realize this phonathon would be happening during the ACC Tournament. Solicitations were made in the evening when games were on, and Keith confirmed, “We often received $100 gifts to get off the phone and watch the game.”

As a result of this phonathon, Campbell increased alumni giving by three times and under the leadership of Keith Oakley and Frank Upchruch, received a U.S. Steelcase Award for their impressive accomplishment.

Oakley served as the Director of Alumni Activities at Campbell for a little over two years and says his time at Campbell helped launch his career in fundraising at Meredith College, N.C. State and currently Coastal Carolina University. He also works as the chief development strategist and major gift officer for Zamorano University in Honduras.

Fundraising has played a huge part in the Oakley’s lives, and they both understand how important it is to give back. Today, they still give back to Campbell University.

“Campbell gave us a chance we otherwise wouldn’t have had,” Keith said. “My parents could not afford college, and Campbell helped me financially to make my college career possible.”

On May 3, 2018, Keith and Dayle Oakley signed scholarship agreements in a special ceremony surrounded by Campbell faculty and staff. The Oakleys paved the way for the first ambitious goal of $50,000 in 1983 and now have committed $50,000 of their own planned gift to Campbell 35 years later. The impact of their love and loyalty to Campbell will be felt for generations to come.

“Trying to do what is right and live by those values is important,” Keith said. “Campbell is really one of the institutions that continues to do that. I want that for our scholarship recipient. Going to Campbell helped me become the person I am today.”

Story by Catrina K. Moretz,  former Assistant Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship. To learn about the Campbell Leads campaign, visit