August 14, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 20

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    Chicago Initiative surpasses its $2 billion goal, raising funds for faculty, students, infrastructure

    By Steve Kloehn
    News Office

    Photos by Dan Dry

    With a surge of gifts that pushed its fundraising total beyond $2.38 billion, the University has concluded a landmark campaign that builds capacity for exceptional research and teaching across the intellectual spectrum.

    The nine-year campaign, known as the Chicago Initiative, marks a milestone in the University’s continuing journey to support the world’s leading scholars in discipline-defining, agenda-setting work.

    Annual fundraising totals increased steeply during the campaign, reaching $376 million in the fiscal year that ended Monday, June 30. The total raised during the Chicago Initiative more than triples that of the University’s last campaign, completed in 1996.

    An anonymous donation of $100 million created the Odyssey Scholarships, removing the burden of student loans for nearly a quarter of College undergraduates. The gift—the largest in the University’s history—was made as a challenge to alumni, who are stepping forward to fund the program in perpetuity.

    Another 177 undergraduate scholarships were endowed, along with 207 graduate fellowships. Students, in turn, set new levels of participation in the campaign, with the portion of fourth-year undergraduates who made gifts rising from below 50 percent at the beginning of the campaign to 77 percent this year.

    Donors also added 105 new endowed professorships, including 29 over the last year and 16 in the month of June alone. The Pritzker and Neubauer families provided generous additional support for faculty over the course of the campaign.

    “Whether it goes toward support of our faculty, our students or our campus, and whether for current use or endowment, the inspiring generosity of our alumni and many other friends allows the entire University community to continue to make extraordinary contributions to knowledge and to society,” said President Zimmer.

    The final two months of the campaign saw six donations between $5 million and $25 million, along with thousands of other generous gifts. In total, more than 117,700 individuals, families and organizations supported the nine-year campaign.

    “This campaign is an unprecedented success for the worldwide community of alumni and other friends of the University who stretched themselves in support of continuing excellence,” said University Trustee Andrew Alper (A.B., ’80, M.B.A., ’81), who took over as chairman of the Chicago Initiative in 2005. “Their enthusiasm and generosity deserve our deepest gratitude.”

    The results of that generosity can be seen in new campus landmarks such as the Comer Children’s Hospital, the 155-bed facility named for Gary and Frances Comer. The Comers’ $84 million in cumulative giving to support pediatric medicine not only makes the University a leader in the field, but helps it care for thousands of families in the community.

    Other gifts helped support the University’s partnerships on the South Side and throughout the City of Chicago, including investments in public urban education. “The founding of the University depended on hundreds of Chicagoans who responded to a challenge gift from Mr. Rockefeller. That tradition of support from neighbors, community leaders and businesses in Chicago is stronger than ever, and the University has thus been able to continue to expand its engagement with the support of this great city,” said James Crown, Chairman of the University Board of Trustees.

    The Charles M. Harper Center, which opened in 2004 at a cost of $125 million, benefited from several major donations. Under its soaring glass and steel arches, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, the Graduate School of Business trains a new generation of leaders in the Chicago traditions of rigorous theoretical inquiry and innovative application.

    The campaign also helped transform the quality of life for students and the community, with the addition of the Max Palevsky Residential Commons and the state-of-the-art, 150,000-square-foot Gerald Ratner Athletics Center. Earlier this year, a site dedication ceremony celebrated the forthcoming Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts.

    The construction of the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Sciences enhanced the University’s capacity for advanced research in science and medicine. The Gwen and Jules Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery and the William Eckhardt Research Institutes will provide much-needed space in the coming years for biomedical and physical sciences.

    The University’s endowment also experienced unprecedented growth, from $2.8 billion at the beginning of the Chicago Initiative, to $6.5 billion today. Approximately $1 billion of that growth was a direct result of gifts made during the campaign. The University’s endowment funds, donated over the years to create an ongoing source of investment income, not only provide stability and the prospect of continued excellence, they also moderate tuition increases and help keep a Chicago education accessible to all students. Last year, endowment income supported 12 percent of the University’s operating budget.

    While there is much to celebrate, the University does not plan to scale back its fundraising efforts with the completion of the Chicago Initiative, according to Ronald Schiller, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations.

    “The success of the University is the success of its faculty, its students, its worldwide community of alumni, and philanthropic partners who have chosen to invest in knowledge creation and service to society through the University,” said Schiller.

    “This core mission—creation of knowledge and enrichment of human life—involves, by definition, work that is never completed. We look forward to continued partnership with philanthropists—those who can give $5, and those who can give $500 million—whose vision for their own giving can be achieved through the extraordinary people and programs of the University of Chicago.”