Jan. 23, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 8

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    Chicago Initiative makes gains at close of 2002

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    As 2002 came to an end, the Chicago Initiative, the University’s $2 billion, five-year capital campaign, had surpassed $817 million in gifts and pledges from alumni and friends.

    Randy Holgate, Vice-President for Development and Alumni Relations, said she is confident that the $2 billion fund-raising goal will be reached. “It’s aggressive, it’s ambitious and it’s doable. Our initial target was to get over the $800 million mark by the end of December, and I am very gratified to say we’ve succeeded,” Holgate said.

    The Chicago Initiative is the largest fund-raising effort by far in the University’s history and among the largest undertaken by a U.S. university. There are four primary objectives of the Chicago Initiative. These include: improving the University’s endowment resources for student aid, both undergraduate and graduate; increasing support for endowed faculty positions; strengthening research in the physical and biological sciences, which will be centered in the Interdivisional Research Building when it is completed in 2005; and funding campus improvements outlined in the University’s Campus Master Plan, which includes numerous new buildings recently completed, under construction, or planned.

    In addition to the IRB, Master Plan projects include the Max Palevsky Residential Commons, completed in 2002; the renovated Bartlett Gymnasium into the Bartlett Dining Commons; the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, which is nearing completion; the new Graduate School of Business building and the Comer Children’s Hospital, both under construction; and an arts center, now in the planning stages.

    Holgate said the initiative is moving forward in spite of the stagnant economy. “Many individuals, foundations and corporations are all making sizeable gifts. Interestingly enough, while most people assume that giving is primarily from foundation and corporate sources, the larger share is actually from individual donors,” she said. “Individual relationships nurtured over time are critical to sustaining the University. Our trustees, among others, have been extraordinarily generous.”

    To date, there have been 140 gifts of more than $1 million each, with 22 of those totaling more than $5 million each. “We’re on a path that meets, and in some cases exceeds, our original expectations,” Holgate said. Support for the University’s annual funds has been particularly strong, with gifts from alumni and friends totaling $8.8 million as of Dec. 31, 2002, as compared with a year-end goal of $5.5 million. “Nonetheless, it’s been a challenge because of the uncertainty about the state of the world and the state of the economy.” Holgate noted that some donors were delaying decisions for those reasons, and like other campaigns to fund academic institutions throughout the country, the Chicago Initiative has monthly totals that are below what they were the previous year. “We knew this might be a difficult fall for us, but overall the news is very positive because we have been able to engage more and more people in this effort,” she said.

    Holgate noted that a number of donors have been designating gifts for multiple units of the University. “This tells me that people are thinking about the University on a new level, with gifts that reflect what matters to them throughout the institution.” She also said she was gratified that many regular, past contributors in the $100 or $1,000 range have made far more substantial gifts to the fund-raising campaign. “I am thrilled that so many are stepping forward. We have been able to convince people who care deeply about this place that the time to support it is now,” she concluded.

    Holgate said that this April the University would reprise the highly successful one-day program held in conjunction with the Chicago Initiative launch and trustee meeting last year. Trustees and other donors had the opportunity to attend presentations on a variety of topics by faculty from across the University.

    “We will call it Chicago Convenes and it will become an annual event in recognition of leadership volunteers and donors, with many faculty and students involved,” she said.