U starts public stage of fundraising campaign

By Ryan Shelton, Asst. News Editr

The U kicked off the public stage of an eight-year fundraising project Saturday night with a banquet recognizing its major donors.

The campaign, “Together We Reach,” began collecting large anchor donations in 2005 from successful alumni, local businesses and U administrators. The campaign has raised more than $550 million from 193,000 donations and pledges.

When the fundraising comes to an end in 2013, administrators hope to be sitting atop $1.2 billion in private donations8212;an amount equal to the state’s total higher education budget in 2008. There have already been 17 individual donations of $5 million or more.

The U’s past two comprehensive capital campaigns have surpassed expectations, raising $933 million since 1985. Major donors to the most recent campaign include some familiar names, such as the Eccles, Marriott, Huntsman and Sorenson families, contributing sizable amounts for large-scale construction and building projects.

U Vice President for Institutional Advancement Fred Esplin, who oversees the campaign, said nearly every donation the U receives is earmarked for projects, scholarships and colleges.

“We’re very fortunate at the U to have alumni, foundations and businesses that recognize the value of our school,” Esplin said. “The private support to the university is extraordinary. For the last number of years, the U has been ranked among the top 20 in the nation for the level of private support among public universities.”

Esplin said the main difference between the silent, or private, phase of the campaign and the public phase is the level of promotion and alumni solicitation, which he said has become more crucial in fundraising efforts after recent statewide budget cuts and an uncertain economic future.

The beginning of the public fundraising phase comes one month after the state’s 4 percent budget cuts, which leave higher education short $34 million in state funding. The U, which receives nearly one-third of the state’s higher education funding, is facing a $12 million cut.

“The thing that has allowed us to really do some of the things we’ve done, like the genetics research building and Tanner Humanities Building, have come about largely through private support,” Esplin said. “With cuts in both state and private funding, hopefully the campaign can help temper or moderate the effects of some of those cutbacks, but we may be in for a hard time for a year or two.”

According to a recent study by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the level of higher education donations will slow by up to 35 percent annually if the economy continues to sputter.

Former U trustee Jim MacFarlane, who co-chairs the committee to raise money for the Student Life Center that received approval from the Utah State Legislature for bonding in 2007, said the campaign’s early success has created a buzz among U administrators.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great plans but we can’t make them work without money. We’re committed to make the U competitive with East Coast universities.”

Jim Hinckley, a U alumnus and grandson of Hinckley Institute of Politics founder Robert Hinckley, was among the hundreds of donors clad in red who attended Saturday’s banquet and praised the U’s fundraising network.

“Higher education has always been a real priority in our family,” Hinckley said. “We believe in preparing students for their careers and adult lives. It’s one of the most important causes out there.”

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