Boston University will soon announce the launch of its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, with an anticipated goal of $1 billion.
The formal announcement is scheduled for the weekend of September 21–22, coincident with this year’s Alumni Weekend. The Campaign Kickoff—expected to be the largest alumni celebration in BU history—will be held on Saturday night in Agganis Arena, and it will feature performances by the Boston Pops and appearances by a number of distinguished BU alumni.
Planning for the campaign began shortly after President Robert A. Brown arrived at BU in 2005. The strategic planning process that Brown launched at that time, titled “Choosing to Be Great,” identified a number of key opportunities to accelerate the University’s rise into the top tier of higher education institutions. It also developed budgets to support those priorities, which included:
- Fostering academic excellence
- Enhancing the student experience
- Improving the campus environment
- Expanding frontiers of knowledge
- Supporting interdisciplinary and multi-school efforts
When it became clear that the resources needed to sustain these ambitious initiatives could not come from operations alone, Brown and the University’s leadership began contemplating BU’s first-ever University-wide campaign.
“The Board of Trustees voted in April 2010 to authorize us to explore the feasibility of a billion-dollar campaign,” explains President Brown. Only 52 universities have launched campaigns with goals of $1 billion or more, and no other school has set the bar so high for its first campaign. But Brown believes the goal is appropriate—and achievable: “It has become clear that our alumni and other friends are prepared to support this ambitious effort, so we are moving forward.”
The campaign will be chaired by Kenneth J. Feld (SMG’70), chairman and chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, Inc. Robert A. Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75), and Alan Leventhal (Hon.’09)—the current and past chairs of the Board of Trustees, respectively—will serve as campaign co-chairs. Knox is senior managing director and cofounder of Cornerstone Equities, and Leventhal is chairman and chief executive officer of Beacon Capital Partners.
In a recent interview, Feld explained why he and his wife and daughter, also alums, had decided to pledge $10 million to create three endowed professorships at BU in conjunction with the impending campaign. “First,” Feld recalls, “we could see where the University was going, and the vision was incredibly compelling. Second, we could see that our investment in BU would truly make a difference. We chose to create professorships at three different schools at BU. We brought our ideas to President Brown and his academic colleagues, and together we worked out a plan for making our own dreams come true, in a way that met important needs for the University.”
Since the completion of President Brown’s strategic plan, the University has received more than a half-dozen gifts of $10 million or more from alumni, other friends, and foundations. Three of those gifts—including a $25 million pledge from BU alumnus and parent Rajen Kilachand (GSM’74) to support BU’s recently established Honors College—have come from individuals born outside the United States.
“These are among the many reasons why we’re confident that this effort will succeed,” says Campaign Chair Feld. “We’ve already secured significant gifts from people all over the world. And with our 300,000-person alumni base—many of whom have never been asked to support the University in a major way—we believe that the necessary support is out there.”
In addition to raising a billion dollars by 2017, the campaign will seek to expand BU’s community of annual donors to include at least 50,000 participants each year, and to engage at least 75,000 alumni annually in BU alumni events.