BU’s Comprehensive Campaign Final Tally: $1.85 Billion
Announcement made at Agganis Arena celebration marking end of seven-year fundraising effort
That number, beamed in light onto the Agganis Arena ice Saturday night before 2,000 cheering spectators, is the total raised after seven years of the Campaign for BU, which wrapped with the celebratory public bash.
Kenneth Feld (Questrom’70), chair of the Board of Trustees, pushed the button that flashed the big number. The figure surpassed the amended goal of $1.5 billion that was set when donors blew past the original $1 billion objective four years ago.
None of that was a certainty at the start of the University’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. “When we set out to raise $1 billion back in 2010, we had no guarantees of success,” Feld told the Agganis audience. “I’m sure some people thought we were crazy.
“It turns out that we weren’t crazy,” he said.
Saturday’s victory lap confirmed his point, as the night’s emcee, McCaela Donovan, assistant director of the College of Fine Arts School of Theatre, opened the show promising “the biggest and most exciting BU party of all time.”
The Agganis rink and seats began the evening bathed in crimson light before a screen fell to reveal Keith Lockhart (Hon.’04) and the Boston Pops on a stage at one end of the arena. Their performance, spanning Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance to the Beatles, punctuated appropriate moments with joy or gravitas, often accompanying figure skaters from Feld Entertainment (the trustee chair’s company and the producer of Disney On Ice). The skaters artfully glided both on the ice and over it, as aerialists twirled on hanging ropes and silks at vertiginous heights.
More light came from the electronic pendants every spectator was given to wear, which twinkled at set points during the show.
Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Alfre Woodard (CFA’74, Hon.’04) smiled at the crowd from the JumboTron with a congratulatory video telegram to her alma mater, which, she said, had given her “the goods”—the skills she needs in all life situations.
A host of University music groups also performed, while faculty speakers reminded the audience of the traditions and values that the campaign’s donations would enable to continue.
After a godlike voice over the loudspeakers read excerpts about inclusivity from BU’s charter, Walter Fluker (GRS’88), retiring after this year as the School of Theology’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Ethical Leadership, intoned how BU’s first president, William Fairfield Warren, met that commitment. Warren insisted that his institution’s education be open “to all comers, without respect to creed or race or sex.”
“How bold was that?” Fluker asked rhetorically. “In the same year that BU was launched and embraced coeducation, the president of a nearby university said that his institution would remain closed to women. ‘The world knows next to nothing about the natural mental capacities of the female sex,’ he explained.”
Fluker also saluted BU’s alumni and staff of color who changed the nation: Howard Thurman (Hon.’67), Marsh Chapel’s pathbreaking African American dean in the 1950s and ’60s; Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59), the University’s most famous alum; Barbara Jordan (LAW’59, Hon.’69), the first African American woman elected to Congress from a southern state (Texas); and Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto (CAS’84, Hon.’18), the current mayor of San Juan, P.R., whose advocacy for her island after Hurricane Maria’s devastation in 2017 made her a global voice of indignation at the Trump administration’s slow response.
Other University contributions to the world include the telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell, at the time a professor at what was then BU’s School of Oratory, who received BU funding for his research. In a less-than-serious reenactment of Bell’s famous first phone call, Lockhart’s cell rang loudly onstage, with the maestro picking up and saying, “I’m kind of busy right now. Can I call you back?” before hanging up.
“Over the seven years of the campaign, we experienced an amazing outpouring of support,” Feld said, “beginning with very generous gifts from the trustees and overseers, and quickly expanding to the broader BU community. Our faculty and staff stepped forward without being asked.… Our graduating seniors set new records every year in their class gifts.”
He gave a special shout-out to fellow trustee Rajen Kilachand (Questrom’74, Hon.’14), whose $115 million gift, BU’s largest ever and part of his $150 million total giving, helped lift the campaign to its numeric finish line.
Undergraduates who were paying tuition and couldn’t afford gifts contributed in their own way, said Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students: those at the University during the seven-year campaign gave 1.8 million hours of community service during that time. (For perspective, one million hours is 114 years.)
More than 175,000 people donated to the campaign, launched to support financial aid, faculty and research, and facility improvements. The results have remade two campuses, including new endowed scholarships; new buildings, such as the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering and the Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre; support for research centers, among them the Shamim and Ashraf Dahod Breast Cancer Research Center and the Shipley Prostate Cancer Research Center, both at the School of Medicine; the gift renaming the Questrom School of Business; and the opening of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies and Kilachand Honors College.