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100 hours and counting

Southern Oregon University is hoping a social-media blitz will yield big bucks, and fast.

The SOU Foundation kicked off a fundraising campaign Wednesday night whose goal is ambitious and time sensitive: 500 donations in 100 hours to the school’s Supporting Opportunities for Undergraduates Scholarship fund.

The “Count Me In” campaign, which will wrap up at midnight Sunday, was launched Wednesday evening during the fifth annual president’s dinner at the Inn at the Commons in Medford with the announcement of the first donation, a $100,000 gift from Jed and Celia Meese.

Progress can be tracked on Twitter by using hashtag #soucountmein or at countmein.sou.edu. As 9:30 a.m. Thursday, “Count Me In” was sitting at 2.2 percent, or 11 donations. By 7 p.m., it had climbed to 25 percent with 123 donations. On Friday evening, the count was 42 percent and 212 donations.

A one-minute, 14-second video posted on the progress page features several well-known SOU alumni, including University of Oregon head football coach Mark Helfrich and Modern Family actor Ty Burrell.

“We’re very excited,” SOU director of annual giving and development communications Chava Florendo said. “Students have an overwhelming financial need, so this campaign is to raise scholarship dollars to help students really reach their academic goals. … We’re hoping it goes viral.”

The foundation on Thursday also honored four alumni, including this year’s distinguished alumnus of the year, Bryan DeBoer.

According to the university, approximately 84 percent of SOU students require some form of financial aid and more than 60 percent of its students from Oregon are the first from their families to attend college.

“There is a great need for scholarships for our undergraduate students,” SOU interim president Dr. Roy Saigo said.

Though the “Count Me In” campaign began Wednesday night, the foundation’s student assistants were still trying to get the word out Thursday morning, tacking up flyers around campus that explained the concept. SOU posted a teaser Web page in the days leading up to the kickoff and also hinted at the campaign on the SOU Foundation’s Facebook page.

DeBoer graduated from SOU summa cum laude in 1988. He later joined Lithia Motors, where in 2006 he was named chief operations officer and in 2012 chief executive officer and president of Lithia Motors Inc.

Also honored Thursday were Nicholas Grant, Beth Heckert and Michael Parker. Grant received the Young Alumni Award, Heckert the Alumni Service Award and Parker the Excellence in Education Award.

Grant, who graduated magna cum laude in 2005, worked for the U.S. Forest Service on a hotshot crew before moving on to law school at Gonzaga University, where he graduated with honors. He currently works for Ebeltoft Sickler, a law firm in Dickinson, N.D.

Heckert graduated in 1984 with a political science degree and in 2012 became the first female district attorney in Jackson County history.

Parker, a 1981 graduate, earned a doctorate in ecology and became a member of the faculty in 1994. He has worked with Stephen Cross through the Southern Oregon Museum of Vertebrate Natural History and Frank Lang to learn the flora and plant communities of southwest Oregon.

Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.