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September 16, 2010

Campaign surpasses $1.5 billion

cathedral chart

Pitt’s “Building Our Future Together” capital campaign has surpassed the $1.5 billion mark, three-quarters of the way toward its $2 billion goal.

At the June 30 fiscal 2010 year-end, the campaign stood at $1.496 billion, reaching $1.5 billion shortly before the start of fall classes, said Pitt Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement Albert J. Novak Jr.

Although the campaign is expected to end at the conclusion of fiscal year 2014, that date is not set in stone, Novak said. “We are going to continue to work hard and do our best to wrap up this campaign as soon as possible,” he said.

The $1.5 billion total has come from 158,003 donors, including 275 who have made commitments of $1 million or more.

Clyde B. Jones III, Pitt vice chancellor for Health Sciences development, stated in a prepared release, “This milestone in our ongoing quest to build an even better Pitt was achieved mainly through the hard work and dedication of our trustees, alumni, administration and the countless volunteers who embrace our cause.”

The campaign has resulted in the creation of 1,273 new endowed funds including 458 scholarship funds, 34 fellowships, 109 faculty chairs or professorships and 672 named student and faculty resource endowments that support research, book purchases, student academic projects and similar activities. It also has contributed toward the University’s ongoing capital improvement projects.

In a prepared statement, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said, “The impact of the extraordinary generosity of Pitt’s supporters extends well beyond the total number of actual dollars raised.

“What is more important is the enormous difference those dollars have made — in the lives of hardworking Pitt students whose achievements are a source of great hope for the future; in the work of Pitt’s outstanding faculty whose pioneering research impacts the ways in which we live and contributes to the greater good; in dramatic enhancements to the learning and working environment, through transformational facilities projects on all five of our campuses, and in the quality and impact of Pitt programs that are changing and improving individual lives on a daily basis and that also add vibrancy to our home communities.”

The $2 billion campaign has its roots in Pitt’s $500 million “Discover a World of Possibilities” fundraising effort. That campaign began with a quiet phase in 1997 and was formally announced in October 2000.

The goal was doubled to $1 billion in June 2002 and doubled again in June 2006.

With the new $2 billion goal came a name change and an emphasis on scholarship fundraising in the “Building Our Future Together” campaign.

The campaign marked a record year in fiscal 2008, bolstered by several eight-figure gifts from foundation donors and a $42 million commitment from engineering alum John Swanson. Together, they accounted for about $70 million of the record $183 million raised that year.

“Those don’t often happen year after year,” Novak said.

More recently, flagging financial confidence in the face of a sluggish economy has led donors to keep a tighter grip on their wallets.

“It’s a problem, no doubt about it,” Novak said.

“The number of folks signing on the dotted line has dropped, especially in large gifts,” he said, but donors remain willing to open their door to University representatives. “Alumni and donors continue to meet us, listen to us tell our story, come to events, listen to the provost and chancellor all over the country,” Novak said.

One area that has continued to receive strong support in spite of the economy is scholarships, particularly among alumni donors, Novak said. The number of endowed scholarship funds has more than doubled with the 458 new scholarships established during the campaign bringing the total to 875.

In addition to honoring a parent, friend or professor, a named scholarship is a terrific gift, Novak said. “It changes the life of a student.”

Also notable is strong support from donors affiliated with Pitt’s engineering programs. “Obviously it helps when John Swanson makes the gift he made,” Novak said, adding that engineering alumni seem to have an especially strong esprit de corps.

Novak also has been pleased by the 109 new endowed chairs and professorships that have been established, noting that the positions are an important tool in recruiting, recognizing and retaining outstanding faculty. These gifts, in the $2 million range, bring the number of endowed chairs and professorships to 183.

He credited the role of faculty and staff in the campaign’s success. “Alumni wouldn’t be giving if they didn’t have a wonderful educational experience at Pitt,” Novak said. “I hope our faculty and staff take great pride in the success we’ve had in the capital campaign. [Alumni donors] are voting yes on the experience they had in the classroom.”

Pitt is not alone in setting multi-billion-dollar fundraising goals. Cornell is in the midst of a $4 billion campaign; the University of Virginia, University of Texas-Austin and University of California-Berkeley have undertaken $3 billion campaigns; the University of Illinois has set a $2.25 billion campaign goal, and Penn State also is in the midst of a $2 billion fundraising campaign.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 43 Issue 2

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