Mar. 20, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 12

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    Trustees energizing Chicago Initiative

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    The Chicago Initiative, the University’s $2 billion, five-year capital campaign, has had notable success due in large part to the University Board of Trustees’ degree of engagement and unprecedented individual giving.

    Now in its second public year, the Chicago Initiative has secured $844.2 million in gifts and pledges, of which $203.6 million are contributions from trustees, compared to an $85 million total given by trustees in the University’s previous capital campaign. Forty-two percent of the Chicago Initiative’s $2 billion goal already has been raised.

    The Chicago Initiative began with two “quiet” years before the public kickoff last April. Edgar Jannotta, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, also chairs the Chicago Initiative. Jannotta is chairman of William Blair & Company and its executive committee. “We used the quiet phase to test our programs and see whether we could generate the kind of support needed to undertake a major campaign,” Jannotta noted.

    Jannotta said planning for the Chicago Initiative began four years ago at a meeting at a Manhattan restaurant owned by University Trustee Peter May. The steering committee of trustees who volunteered to lead the campaign are Jannotta; May, president and chief operating officer of Triarc Companies; Dennis Keller, chairman and co-chief executive officer of DeVry Inc. and co-founder of the Keller Graduate School of Management Inc.; Life Trustee Robert Halperin, former vice chairman of the board and president of Raychem Corporation; Andrew Rosenfield, chairman and CEO of UNext Inc. and chairman of Lexecon Inc.; James Frank, president and CEO of Wheels Inc.; Andrew Alper, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation; and Harvey Plotnick, president and CEO of Paradigm Holdings Inc.

    “We met frequently for more than two years to fine tune the financial targets and confirm that we were being aggressive, but realistic,” Jannotta said. Donor pledges during the first two quiet years totaled $702 million, 10 times the amount of previous giving by those donors.

    “Our first job, of course, was to decide what each of us was going to do, and so we assigned responsibilities: Jim Frank would focus on the Hospitals, Andy Rosenfield, the Law School, Andy Alper and Dennis Keller, the GSB, and on down the line. We agreed that this effort needed to be trustee driven and that trustee commitments were critical,” Jannotta said.

    Jannotta cited President Randel and his predecessor Hugo Sonnenschein, President Emeritus and the Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College, as essential factors for success. “Hugo gave us the impetus and then Don picked up the traces without missing a beat. He’s energized the entire University community, including all the deans. We’re very lucky to have that kind of leadership,” he said. “We trustees know this campaign was a top priority for Hugo as it is now for Don, and thus it has become a top priority for each of us.”

    Jannotta explained that the current financial environment is a particular challenge. “Obviously we’re going after people to make gifts with their appreciated financial assets, and we’re now into the third down year for the stock market. This is an environment of considerable uncertainty. However, I’m pleased to note that our kickoff ended up with over $700 million in commitments, which was more than the total raised in the previous campaign.”

    Jannotta noted that the University has special attributes that make it well worth the Chicago Initiative’s ambitious $2 billion goal.

    “This is quite a distinctive institution in many ways,” Jannotta said. “Our focus on academic rigor and excellence and our major contributions in research areas across the board make us what I would call a national asset. Our appeal goes far beyond what is normal for an academic institution in terms of what we contribute to the community and to the world at large.”

    Fellow University Trustee and Campaign Steering Committee member Dennis Keller noted: “There are a number of wonderful things about this campaign. I am very proud of the University and my fellow trustees for thinking hard about the needs of our great institution over the coming years. It’s been extraordinarily gratifying to see everyone willing to step up to a goal that seems audacious yet is not only fully justified but also achievable.”

    Jannotta said the Chicago Initiative is a particularly valuable undertaking because the funds not only support ongoing needs but also the unusual number of much-needed newer facilities, which have been recently built or will be soon.

    “There is tremendous enthusiasm throughout the campus and among everyone connected with this University. Undergraduates, for example, are involved in the campaign in a way that I don’t think has happened before. We really don’t have a long tradition of this kind of major fund-raising, so what we are seeing now is tremendously exciting,” he said.