By Matthew T Fredenburg
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.
Despite difficult economic times, BU alumni and friends are building a culture of participation
What does Boston University have going for it that many other U.S. universities don’t?
The answer is momentum—and that’s especially true in the important realm of alumni participation.
Here’s proof: The number of BU alumni donors is up, despite a nationwide downward trend in annual giving that has emerged over the last decade. And BU’s number is not just up; it has seen a healthy 12 percent increase, this year over last, as of June 11.
And that’s not the only compelling evidence. Alumni event and meeting attendance has increased, too—a whopping 25 percent to date over last year. Signature events, like Winterfest (overall attendance up 30 percent over 2011) and the Global Day of Service (with more than 3,500 participants), are engaging and inspiring ever-greater numbers of people.
What’s responsible for these great leaps forward? Steve Hall, vice president for alumni relations and annual giving, says it’s all about letting alumni get engaged with BU. “Thanks to President Brown’s embrace of alumni engagement,” he says, “we now have staff in place to provide our alumni with the encouragement and resources they need to become active donors and participants.”
“In effect,” he says, “we’re busy building a new tradition.”
For example: the BU Alumni Association’s award-winning Facebook page now brings together 48,000-plus alumni (and climbing) to network, reminisce, and access special offers. The BUAA’s Twitter feed provides information and fun facts to nearly 9,000 followers, while the association’s newly launched official LinkedIn group enables alumni to discuss professional issues and opportunities and to track each others’ career development.
Through these kinds of social support, and also through more active solicitation, BU is encouraging the emergence of a new culture of philanthropy among its alumni. And while the University may still be playing catch-up with many of its institutional peers in this critical realm, the numbers suggest that BU’s days of lagging behind may soon be over. One important key to annual giving, says Hall, is the spirit behind it: each and every gift counts, and donors have the freedom to support causes that are close to their hearts.
David Hollowell (ENG’69, ’72, GSM’74)—immediate past president of the BU Alumni Association, and co-chair with his wife, Kathleen (GRS’71, SED’77), of the Annual Giving Campaign—agrees, adding that philanthropy on the part of current students and young alumni has become more important than ever. “Early engagement is key to instilling a sense of commitment to give back to your university,” he says. “It is understood that most young people just starting out can’t afford to make large gifts, but getting in the habit of giving what they can afford and being a regular donor is important to the future of any university—particularly for BU, where alumni participation in giving has not been up to the level of our peers.”
BU students and alumni are answering the call. This year’s graduating class surpassed last year’s record-breaking Class Gift participation rate. Alumni giving has been up for the past two years—and again this year, thanks in part to the Slatkin Challenge: Alumnus Ed Slatkin (SMG’77) challenged BU alumni to increase donor participation (with a gift of any amount), pledging that if 3,000 more alumni give this fiscal year than last, he will donate $1 million to Boston University. BU’s donors rose to the challenge, and then some. “With Ed Slatkin’s timely help,” says Daniel Allenby, assistant vice president for annual giving, “we set another new participation record.”
Record-setting alumni participation is not only good for the bottom line, and a good portent for the future, but it’s also good for rankings. College and university rankings in U.S. News & World Report, for example, factor in alumni participation as one of seven key ranking criteria. And even though 40 percent of BU graduates have given back to the University during their lifetime, the University’s annual alumni giving rate has lagged behind other prestigious schools. But these longstanding gaps have begun to close in recent years and are expected to continue to do so during the impending comprehensive Campaign for Boston University.
Even without a consistently strong track record in alumni giving, BU can boast of some notable trendsetters. For example: Annual Giving Campaign co-chairs David and Kathleen Hollowell have a 42-year-long unbroken record of giving to BU. And then there are Peter Pochi (MED’55) and Robert Slocum (CAS’44, ’46). Since the 1950s, neither has missed a single year of giving to BU, making them the donors with the longest records of consecutive yearly gifts in BU’s documented history. So with enthusiasm, activity, and connectivity all increasing, today’s momentum points toward record-breaking growth in alumni participation—and says good things for BU’s future.
Ready to participate? Visit bu.edu/givetoday to learn more.
The generosity of BU’s graduating students puts a senior on the mound at Fenway—and sets a new giving record
On May 15, BU senior Dylan Moir (COM’12) lived a high-school pitcher’s dream: putting one across the plate at fabled Fenway Park. Sporting his old mitt and watched by his parents, his girlfriend, and 37,300 baseball fans, Moir delivered the ceremonial first pitch at the afternoon’s Red Sox home game, finding the center of the strike zone. [Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox.]
“I actually wasn’t nervous at all,” he said afterward. “Just the fact that I was out here on the field—I’m still in pure ecstasy.”
Moir made his trip to the mound thanks to a prize offered to graduating students for reaching their target of 2,012 donors to the Class of 2012 Class Gift campaign. His name was drawn at random at the Senior Breakfast by Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87) from among all members of the Class of 2012 who contributed to the Class Gift.
“It’s been amazing to see the generosity and support that’s been demonstrated by my peers,” comments Fernando Limbo III (SAR’12), the 2012 Class Gift chair. “The fact that we are ahead of where we were last year shows the dedication that our class has toward the continued success of Boston University programs for future Terriers.”
Sharrod McClusky (CAS’12) chose to direct his $20.12 donation to scholarships, so that a future student could have the kind of opportunity he had.
“I wouldn’t have been able to attend BU if it hadn’t been for others’ generosity,” he says. “So I gave because BU has given so much to me.“
A new living space for students opens its doors on the Medical Campus
This fall, the inaugural cohort of tenants moved into the Medical Campus’s first student residence: a facility providing affordable housing for students who may face up to $170,000 in medical school education costs. The residence will transform the student-life experience for many BUSM students, fostering a living and learning environment that is close to campus without a South End price tag.
“With the generous support of our friends and alumni, the concept of student housing at Boston University School of Medicine is becoming a reality,” says BU President Robert A. Brown. “This facility will make the burden of a medical education a little bit lighter to carry.”
Located at 815 Albany St., the student residence is a nine-story complex with 104 two-bedroom apartments and retail and common space on the first floor. The 86,000-square-foot building accommodates 208 students. The School enrolls approximately 175 first-year medical students each year, many of whom currently commute long distances—from as far away as Rhode Island to live in more affordable neighborhoods and towns.
Karen Antman, BUSM dean and Medical Campus provost, says the $40 million project is the result of the BUSM Dean’s Advisory Board’s commitment to decreasing the cost of attending BU’s medical program (among the 10 most expensive nationwide). Affordable student housing seemed an obvious solution, as other urban medical schools have taken the same step.
A fundraising campaign for the residence has raised $11 million through donations from hundreds of alumni, parents, and friends—including lead gifts from MED parent Sherry Leventhal and University Overseer Shamim Dahod (CGS’76, CAS’78, MED’87) and her husband, Ashraf—to be used in part to keep rent in the new building as low as $800 per month.
The new residence hall is located just two blocks from BUSM and Boston Medical Center, making it extremely convenient for BUSM students. “I am well aware of the challenges faced by our students,” says Dean’s Advisory Board Chair Leventhal, who has two daughters with degrees from the School. “This new facility eliminates some of the logistical challenges, and lets our students concentrate on their studies.”
Dean Antman anticipates that this facility will also foster an “esprit de corps and sense of community” among medical students, who are competitive by nature. “Medical students spend an awful lot of time studying, and they don’t get to see a lot of other people and do a lot of other things,” says Antman. “Having a place where they will be able to mix at the beginning of their time on campus and make friends while they are studying is just an incredible advantage.”
Amid sarcophagi, BU alumni and friends celebrate giving and the University’s vision for the future
Though surrounded by antiquities from ancient Egypt, the 300 Boston University leaders and supporters who gathered in New York City at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for a gala dinner and campaign preview on April 18 were focused firmly on the future.
Led by emcee Andrew Lack (CFA’68), it was a night to celebrate the best of BU and the generosity of the University’s benefactors, including announcements of a $5 million gift from trustee Steve Karp (CAS’63) and his
wife, Jill, and a $10 million gift to the School of Management from trustee Allen Questrom (SMG’64) and his wife, Kelli. As a screen filled with names of BU donors of $1 million or more, trustee chairman Robert Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75) lauded donors at all levels for being “the modern builders of Boston University.”
“Although each donor typically has a particular focus or passion—a special reason for supporting the University—all of those reasons ultimately blend together in a common, yet powerful goal: to build BU into a great, global university,” said Knox, whose recent $2.5 million gift endowed a University professorship in global health. “We are now launched on an exciting and historic voyage, and although our destination is not yet in sight, we will surely reach it together!”
The Campaign for Boston University launches September 22 at Agganis Arena with a University-wide kickoff celebration of historic proportions. We got the inside scoop on this landmark event from campaign kickoff co-chairs SungEun Han-Andersen (CFA’85), president and secretary of the G. C. Andersen Family Foundation; and Richard C. Shipley (SMG’68, GSM’72), managing director of Shiprock Capital, LLC.
What are your aspirations for this kickoff? What do you want to see happen as a result of it?
Shipley: Ultimately, of course, we’d like to see BU reach its objective. And, frankly, we’d like to pull in those billion dollars ahead of schedule.
Han-Andersen: And specifically for the kickoff weekend, we want people to feel comfortable that we are on a successful launch pad. We want them to be inspired by the generosity of the donors who have already committed, and join us in the cause.
What are the inherent challenges in doing something like this?
Han-Andersen: For one thing, BU has never done it before! [Laughs]
Shipley: Exactly. We’re new to a lot of this.
Han-Andersen: And at the same time, BU doesn’t really have a long tradition of getting together as a big group. Our alumni base hasn’t really pulled together before. This is the first time, so it’s a challenge. And an opportunity, of course.
The converse question would be, does BU have strengths that we can draw upon?
Shipley: Yes, absolutely. We have a very strong leader in Bob Brown, and a very strong leadership team that has continued to grow around him. The University clearly is making terrific strides, and part of our effort is to help our fellow alumni understand that, and persuade them to help support our march forward.
Han-Andersen: I have to admit that, even though I’m an alumna myself, I’m finding out great things about BU that I didn’t know about before. I think we are discovering things ourselves, at the same time everybody else is.
What’s the message that you want to have ringing in the ears of alumni and friends as they leave town on Sunday morning?
Han-Andersen: Easy: “We need your help!”
Shipley: Yes. Couldn’t say it any better. “Help!”
Why is the success of this campaign important to BU?
Shipley: Well, there are a lot of things that we can’t do, as things currently stand. It’s true that we’re a very large university—with an operating budget of over $2 billion—but for a university of our size, we’ve got a very small endowment, and that restricts the things that we can do. And so I come back to what Sung said: We need their help, to keep improving the University on all fronts. For example: helping pull in top-caliber students and faculty members.
Han-Andersen: Another way of saying that is to point out that BU has really done a tremendous job at managing itself. Because we’ve had such a small endowment, relative to our size, we’ve had to run an incredibly lean operation. But that works only up to a point. If you want to go farther, you need to expand the resource base.
Shipley: And actually, that raises a concern of mine. Every university that’s out there raising money is making more or less the same noises. So you have to come back to, “What do we have that’s different?”
One answer, as I’ve said, is that we’re blessed with a powerful leadership team, headed by Bob Brown, which literally is on the move. Producing results. I know that sounds trite, but in our case it’s true. Even the best strategy depends on great execution—execution is where the rubber meets the road—and we have that. If we can put some additional resources behind that strategy, and its execution, we’ll be in very, very good shape.