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  April 2, 2001

Campaign to Take Fund-Raising to New Level

Until now the campaign has been conducted without fanfare. But on May 3, University officials will publicly launch the most ambitious private fund-raising campaign ever conducted by a public university in New England - and they want members of the University community to join them. The goal, as yet undisclosed, will be announced that day.

The campaign, which has already raised nearly $140 million since it began in 1998, will then enter a three-year public fund-raising effort in support of the University's ongoing drive for excellence. It will build on the strategic plan, which enunciated the University's vision and goals, and on UConn 2000, the $1 billion capital improvement program.

Already having achieved recognition as the top public university in New England, UConn has now set its sights on becoming one of the top 25 public research universities in the nation, seeking to join the ranks of such institutions as the University of California at Berkeley and the universities of Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin.

"To be a Top 25 public research university means you have high levels of research funding, substantial endowments and strong programs of annual giving," says President Philip E. Austin. "It means you have excellent faculties in the sciences, humanities, social sciences and professional schools, strong doctoral and post-doctoral programs, and outstanding undergraduate students.

"These factors provide a fairly accurate outline of what we are fortunate enough to have here at the University," Austin says. "But it will be difficult to sustain, much less expand, our capabilities in all these areas without the infusion of generous private support."

A quarter of the campaign's fund-raising goal will be directed to endowed faculty positions. Faculty enrichment and research support are seen as key factors in helping the University achieve its ambitions.

"Faculty quality is the primary source of the University's strength," says Austin. "Endowed faculty chairs enable UConn to attract and retain top academics and provide them with the opportunity to conduct research and teach without concerns about funding."

In recent years, private support has increased the number of endowed chairs at UConn from 21 to 51. That figure still lags behind the number of endowed chairs that a major research university needs, however. George Washington University added 33 new endowed chairs and professorships midway through its $500 million campaign.

Another quarter of the campaign goal will be designated for student scholarships and the Honors Program. In all, the campaign seeks to triple the number of endowed faculty positions and scholarships.

"Scholarships help attract high-achieving students," says Austin. "We believe that UConn should be a school of choice for the most talented high school graduates in the country, regardless of their financial resources. Merit and need-based scholarships will help make this happen."

Scholarships such as the Nutmeg and Day of Pride Scholarships have already helped the University recruit more of the state's high school valedictorians in recent years.

Campaign UConn also seeks to increase annual private giving for the benefit of UConn from the $20 million level of 1998 to $70 million a year by 2004. It will include all campuses and all schools and colleges.

Major fund-raising efforts by public universities are increasingly common throughout the country. Nationally, Pennsylvania State University and the universities of Michigan and Virginia all have recently conducted $1 billion campaigns. In New England, the universities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire also have made or are in the midst of fund-raising programs.

The need for private financial support has grown as state funding for public universities has decreased. According to a federal survey, state funding to public universities dropped between 1977 and 1996, while tuition revenue per student continued to increase. Yet public universities are still obliged to provide access to higher education for qualified students, regardless of their ability to pay.

In Connecticut, state support for all public higher education declined from 56 percent of costs in 1990 to less than 45 percent in 2001.

"While private support cannot and should not replace public funding, it will provide the margin that will enable the University to achieve its goal of becoming one of the top national public universities," says Austin.

The campaign will raise support for areas of academic strength, such as biotechnology, e-commerce, environmental and materials science, and a developing human rights program. The information technology infrastructure, crucial to the support of research and teaching, is also targeted for funding.

Chancellor John D. Petersen has established academic priorities that cross department boundaries and offer the University the opportunity to make a national contribution.

To build focused, interdisciplinary programs that are nationally competitive requires resources that only a major fund-raising campaign can provide, Petersen says. "We'd be very restricted without it."

Half of the goal will be directed toward enhancing programs and improving facilities that are not eligible for UConn 2000 building funds. Areas singled out for support include graduate research and education and "student life" enhancements, such as providing more funding for the Student Union renovation.

The Health Center, which recently identified four 'signature programs' - Immunology, Genetics, and Cancer; Brain and Human Behavior; Bone Biology and Musculoskeletal Disease; and Connecticut Health, a public health outreach - will receive significant campaign support. Updating and expanding the information technology capabilities for the Lyman Maynard Stowe Library is a goal, as is support for health sciences education.

In athletics, the campaign will raise funds to build a multi-purpose indoor practice facility for all 24 sports teams and a football support building at Storrs. Scholarships for student-athletes also are sought.

The public phase of the campaign follows six years of growth in the University's private fund-raising capacity through The University of Connecticut Foundation Inc. In fiscal year 2000, the Foundation raised $37 million in gifts for the University, up from $8.2 million in fiscal year 1995. The endowment now stands at $220 million.

A total of $18.7 million generated from contributions and endowment income was spent by the University this year, compared with $5.1 million six years ago. Most of the funds supported scholarships, fellowships, and faculty/staff support.

So far, the "quiet" phase of Campaign UConn has yielded gifts such as the $23 million commitment by Ray Neag '56, the largest gift in the University's history; the recent $11 million commitment by General Electric, the largest single corporate investment in UConn; and United Technologies Corp.'s $4 million gift to the School of Engineering, the largest gift UTC has given to an educational institution. The School of Social Work will have a new Ph.D. program, thanks to a $1.25 million-plus gift by Judith '77 and Henry Zachs, and the School of Fine Arts will have a new thrust stage, with the help of a $1 million gift from Nafe Katter, professor emeritus of dramatic arts.

"We feel a public campaign will generate the kind of excitement needed to take private philanthropic support for UConn to the next level," says Edward T. Allenby, vice president for institutional advancement and president of the Foundation, "support that is needed to assist the University in achieving its goals."

All faculty, staff, and students are invited to the Campaign UConn kick-off event on May 3 at 11 a.m. at the Homer Babbidge Library plaza (rain back-up: Rome Commons Ballroom). At noon, lunch will be served under a tent on the Student Union Mall. From 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., student research projects will be on display at the Student Union, and visitors will be given tours of the campus.