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  May 8, 2001

Campaign UConn Off to Strong Start
Philanthropy Taking UConn to 'Next Level'

"Perception is now reality - UConn is a place where great things are happening."

With that assessment by President Philip E. Austin, Campaign UConn got under way.

Austin was speaking during a campaign kick-off event on the Homer Babbidge Library plaza last Thursday, when the goal of raising $300 million in private funds by 2004 was revealed.

In preliminary campaign work since 1998, the University already has raised $150.2 million, just over half of the goal, through The University of Connecticut Foundation Inc.

Campaign UConn aims to increase annual private giving for the University's benefit from the $20 million level of 1998 to more than $70 million annually by 2004.

All campuses and professional schools are included in the campaign.

Private fund-raising will increase support for faculty, students, and programs. "We have to think about enhancing our academic programs even further - that's what this campaign is all about," said Judith A. Kelly, professor of molecular and cell biology and a member of the Campaign Steering Committee.

With the facilities improvements taking place at all UConn campuses through the state's UConn 2000 program, and the private funds that will be raised through Campaign UConn, the University will be "a model for public higher education in the 21st century," Austin said.

The physical improvements to the UConn campuses coupled with athletic and academic success are making the University "a magnet" for attracting high quality students, said Brian Williams, MSNBC anchor and keynote speaker at the campaign kick-off.

Williams, a New Canaan resident, said that when he was stuck in traffic recently, his 13-year-old daughter spotted a UConn window sticker on a car and asked, "What if I go to UConn?"

Private support is essential to help the University achieve its goal of being recognized as a Top 25 public university, said Denis J. Nayden '76 '77, chairman and CEO of GE Capital and chair of the Campaign UConn Steering Committee.

"I get questions all the time - 'why does UConn need private fund raising?' The answer," he said, is "to raise resources necessary to take the University to the next level of excellence."

In increasing its private fund-raising efforts, UConn joins a trend in public higher education. The University of Massachusetts ended its first major fund-raising campaign in 2000, raising $130 million. The University of New Hampshire is in the midst of a five-year campaign to raise $100 million. The University of Virginia recently completed a seven-year campaign, during which it raised $1.43 billion, nearly double its original goal. Prior to that campaign, between 1990 and 1995, the portion of state funds in UVA's budget fell from 27 percent to 13 percent.

State support now accounts for less than half of UConn's budget. President Austin cautioned, however, that "private funding supplements state revenues, it does not supplant them. It adds value to something already worthy; it creates a margin of excellence on a platform of quality."

Of the $300 million to be raised in Campaign UConn, more than half is earmarked to enhance the University's endowment, and half will go toward current operating needs for UConn's programs and facilities.

About $75 million will be directed to endowed faculty positions - chairs and professorships that are supported in part by the income from the investment of endowed funds. Another $75 million will be designated for student scholarships and the Honors Program.

As of June 30, 2000, UConn's total endowment was approximately $220 million, up from $50 million just six years ago.

Besides providing facilities funding, the UConn 2000 program encourages private support by matching donations to the endowment. The current match is 1:2, or one state dollar for every two eligible private dollars. Faculty and staff gifts to endowment can be matched at the $10,000 level; those outside the University must donate at least $25,000 to endowment to be eligible for the match.

Cindy Weiss

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