February 1, 2008

Campaign Meets Milestone

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In Oct. 2006, Cornell launched the most ambitious fund-raising campaign in its history and one of the largest in higher education with a goal of raising $4 billion by the end of 2011. With a quarter of the campaign term complete, the University announced that it has reached the $2 billion halfway milestone.
Last Friday in New York City, such an achievement was reason to celebrate at “Big Red in the Big Apple,” a campaign event that welcomed attendees including President David Skorton, members of the Board of Trustees, alumni, students, faculty and friends.
“We planned the events before we knew that we were going to exceed the $2 billion [point]. It is a wonderful coincidence that we were able to make the announcement on that evening,” said James Mazza ’88, campaign director.
The campaign is named “Far Above” after the first words of the University’s alma mater. Its vision is to to support Cornell to be the best research university for undergraduate education.
“Cornell is an institution that we hope continues because of the investment that alumni and friends are making through their gifts [and] will continue to be an institution that is ‘far above,’ one that is deeply committed to its students and to educational freedom,” Mazza said.
The three focus areas of the campaign are students, faculty and facilities. Of the $4 billion being raised, $640 million will be for student needs, $200 million of which will go to undergraduate financial aid, $25 million will go to International Scholarships, $75 million will go to gradate fellowships and the remainder to learning and living expenses.
Additionally, $1,885 million will be raised for faculty and program support, $1,175 million for building and maintaining state-of-the-art facilities and $300 million for unrestricted use.
Donors making gifts to the campaign can choose to donate either to the endowment or to the Cornell Annual Fund. They can also designate their gifts to a specific area of focus or make a contribution for unrestricted use.[img_assist|nid=27160|title=Far above|desc=President David Skorton on stage at Cipriani in Manhattan on Jan. 25 to celebrate the $2 billion campaign milestone. On stage with President Skorton is (left to right) Provost Biddy Martin, Harold Tanner ’52, former chairman of the Board of Trustees , Pe|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Gifts to the endowment constitute the University’s permanently invested capital. Payouts generated by the endowment at an annual interest rate of four to five percent are used at the donor’s discretion. Unlike donations to the endowment, gifts made to the Cornell Annual Fund go to the University’s operations budget directly.
“Having a strong Annual Fund allows the Provost and deans to make investments in areas on campus today that help to complement the endowment resources that we have, and these gifts go to work wherever the need is greatest at Cornell,” said Maya Gasuk, director of the Cornell Annual Fund.
So far, the campaign has attracted different types of donors, such as alumni, parents, friends, foundations and corporations. The size of the gifts range from $300 million, donated by Sanford Weill ’55, former Citigroup CEO, to less than $100. According to Gasuk, gifts at all levels are important to the success of the campaign.
“What I really like about it is the collective nature of these gifts — it takes over 27,000 people making a gift to the Annual Fund to reach our goals, and we really do need gifts at every amount of giving,” said Gasuk.
In order to ensure its success, the campaign’s leaders have made an effort to take the campaign on the road to further engage alumni, according to Banoo Parpia, director of International Alumni Affairs and Development. Cornell alumni have shown an active response to the campaign. Kim Jones ’02, president of the Cornell Club in Washington, D.C., said her club has established a regional Alumni Campaign Committee, made up of local Cornell ambassadors for the campaign.
“We have very great alumni so that we can make the campaign goal possible,” said Banoo Parpia, director of International Alumni affairs and Development. “It shows that people are giving back and shows philanthrophy.”
The senior class is also involved in the campaign. This Tuesday, the class launched the Senior Class Campaign, which encourages seniors to donate to the Cornell Annual Fund to create the Class of 2008 Scholarship.
“[The campaign] is about Cornellians helping the next-generation Cornellians,” Mazza said.
To achieve the final campaign goal, the University plans reach out to more individuals and identify new donors.
“We will use events, marketing materials and visits with alumni and friends, as ways to identify individuals with an interest in supporting Cornell. One of the reasons for undertaking a campaign is both to generate significant funds for university priorities but also to engage a much larger number of individuals in the life of the University,” said Mazza.