November 22, 2010

Campaign for Cornell Reaches Unprecedented $3 Billion Mark

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The Campaign for Cornell has surpassed the $3 billion mark to support financial aid, endowed professorships and construction projects around campus, campaign organizers Jan Zubrow ’77 and Stephen Ashley ’62 announced Wednesday before hundreds of Boston-area alumni at the “Cornell on the Charles” event.

The initiative, which began in 2006, aims to raise a total of $4 billion to help make Cornell the top undergraduate research institution in the country by the University’s sesquicentennial in 2015.

Six hundred and forty million dollars of the expected $4 billion will be devoted to undergraduate financial aid, international scholarship funds and graduate fellowships, while approximately $1.89 billion will be devoted to endowed faculty positions and recruiting new faculty.

Organizers expect to raise the remaining billion by the end of 2011.

The campaign has already helped fund the construction of new West Campus housing and the renovation of the Johnson Museum, and it has augmented financial aid and scholarship in accordance with the University’s stated dedication to need-blind admissions.

In addition to supporting renovations and construction on the Ithaca campus, the campaign has funded projects at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, including the construction of a new biomedical research building.

The progress of the campaign to date has been very encouraging, especially given the recent economic downturn, said Ashley, who called the five-year fundraising total a testament to alumni dedication and generosity.

“It’s a show of support from alumni who feel their own personal success is due in part to their experience at Cornell, whether academically, socially or otherwise, and who have a desire to give back and support today’s students” Ashley said. “I’m terribly excited and so appreciative.”

Ashley also said that the high volume of donations — about 75,000 gifts annually, mostly from alumni — indicated alumni support for the strategic plan and President David Skorton, as well as for the students and faculty.

“Only a mere handful of schools have ever been successful in any such campaign in this time frame,” Ashley said.

The success of the campaign is due largely to the efforts of alumni volunteers, according to Charles Phlegar, vice president for alumni affairs and development, who lauded the enthusiasm of the Cornell Club members around the country who held fundraising events and phone-a-thons for the campaign.

“Cornell has one of the most volunteer programs in the country,” he said, describing alumni organizations as vital for keeping Cornellians involved after graduation and for informing the public about the University.

Despite the large fundraising figures, Phlegar also emphasized that the campaign is not just about monetary totals, but about the effects the money will have on the Cornell community.

“Primarily, this is a people-focused effort,” he said, noting that the main goal is to improve the experience for students and faculty and to bring new people to campus. Both Ashley and Phlegar called the recruitment and support of new faculty particularly important, since a large number of professors are expected to retire in the coming years.

“In anticipation of this wave of retirements, we need to be attracting and recruiting the next generation of great faculty,” Ashley said.

Looking ahead, Phlegar said he was hopeful that the enthusiasm of donors and volunteers would continue and even increase, especially as the economy improves.

“I hope the next few years will be even better. I’m very optimistic,” he said.

Original Author: Eliza LaJoie