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  March 17, 2003

Health Center's Fund-Raising Team
Seeks To Broaden Base Of Support

One new research building is in place and another is proposed. Construction begins this spring on a new ambulatory surgery center and musculoskeletal research institute. Promising research is underway in cancer immunology and vascular biology.

Good things are going on at the Health Center. Like the transformation of the Storrs campus, it's all part of the design to turn UConn into one of the top 20 public research universities in the nation.

But major transformations require considerable investment. The journey to the top tier will require financial resources beyond state budgets and research grants; it will require significant private support.

Image: Ellen Ball, Sally Weisman and Mark McGrath

Ellen Ball, left, Sally Weisman, and Mark McGrath of the new fund-raising team at the Health Center.

Photo by Dollie Harvey

That's where the UConn Foundation steps in. "Our job is to raise funds for the margin of excellence," says Ellen Ball, the Foundation's associate vice president for the Health Center.

Ball leads a small team that aims to build enthusiasm about the Health Center among alumni, friends, and faculty, wherever they may be.

"There are many people who believe their wealth is not really theirs to keep, that they have a responsibility to do something with it. Our job is to connect them with the Health Center and engage them in philanthropic opportunities that help them accomplish their goal and, at the same time, help us achieve our mission," says Ball.

Sally Weisman, director of major and planned gifts, says "The Health Center has lots of alumni and friends who are simply waiting to be asked to help."

She says she went to San Francisco last year to visit alumni in the area and brief them about the Health Center. "One man was thrilled to get my phone call," says Weisman. "He's done extremely well in the field of immunology and he believes he owes his success to the education and training he received here. He is excited about the opportunity to give back."

The Health Center's development team has two goals: to increase the number of significant gifts and to broaden the Health Center's base of support. "We plan to engage alumni, grateful patients, and faculty and friends who have an interest in making gifts at higher levels, but we also plan to reach out to the large national foundations and major regional corporations, especially those with an interest in research and education," says Mark McGrath, director of corporate and foundation relations.

A search is on for a fourth team member to be in charge of special and annual giving.

The Foundation raised $4.5 million for the Health Center in 1999 and more than $11.5 million in 2002. The new team hopes to increase the amount raised over the next several years to $20 million annually.

Campaign UConn, the University's fund-raising campaign launched in 1998, has raised more than $45 million for the Health Center.

"People have divided loyalties for their philanthropic giving," says Ball. "We want them to understand what sets the Health Center apart. Our imperatives are research, education, and patient care. There are plenty of hospitals in the state that provide excellent clinical care.

"When Dr. Deckers [executive vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine] talks to potential donors about the Health Center, he reminds them that it is the only public university in the state directly involved in making new medicine, then teaching it and translating it into patient care," she says. "A contribution to the Health Center supports all three tasks."

The Health Center administration has spent the past several years developing its strategic plan and establishing priorities, ranging from the signature programs, to aging and women's health. "We feel there is tremendous opportunity and that we're gaining momentum," says Ball. "It's just a matter of time."