One billion. That’s billion, with a b. It’s the kind of number that grabs your attention. So it was certainly ambitious for UT to set $1 billion as the goal for the Campaign for Tennessee.
And what’s more impressive is that UT alumni, friends, faculty, and staff rose to the occasion and surpassed the billion-dollar mark 18 months ahead of schedule.
“This places the University of Tennessee at a whole different level of recognition among its peers to be able to accomplish this,” says Interim President Jan Simek. “It is one more step in the evolution of the university’s improving national recognition.”
The campaign started in 2005 and will officially end in December 2011. The goal was met last spring, underscoring the enthusiastic support that exists for the university.
The achievement puts UT in a league with such schools as the University of California at Los Angeles and Harvard University that have had fundraising campaigns of $1 billion or more.
Currently, about 30 schools, including UT, are in the midst of campaigns of at least $1 billion—a very small percentage considering there are about 5,000 higher-education institutions in the United States.
The timing of the Campaign for Tennessee coincides with the continuing wane of state support of higher education, as the university faces what will be a $112-million reduction in state funding from 2008 to 2012.
Fundraising cannot take the place of state funding, which helps pay for the costs of operating the university. The overwhelming majority—98 percent—of donations to the campaign is designated for certain programs and purposes, but even with those restrictions, the donations can augment the college experience.
Led by co-chairs Jim and Natalie Haslam of Knoxville and Brenda Lawson of Cleveland, Tennessee, the Campaign for Tennessee benefits thousands of current and future UT students and faculty members. The campaign has helped raise the funds to build and improve buildings and provide scholarships and professorships.
Donors include such VIPs as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, DuPont chairman and CEO Chad Holliday, and PepsiCo CEO John Compton. But they are hardly the only kind of donors giving to the campaign. Contributors represent a wide range of careers, backgrounds, and relationships with the university. A large majority of donors are alumni, and there’s good reason for that. “The primary reason I believe people give back to the university is their undergraduate experience and the positive impact it’s had on their lives and careers,” says Scott Rabenold, interim vice-president for development and alumni affairs.
For those who aren’t alumni, the reasons for giving to UT can range from showing appreciation for medical research or successful surgery to being fans of sports teams or supporting higher education in Tennessee.
The gift that helped surpass the campaign goal so early was from the family of UT alumnus and trustee Charlie Anderson and his wife, Moll. They both cited the importance of the university’s impact as a reason to give.
“Moll and I considered how we could best make a positive impact on this state and region. The university was the obvious answer,” says Charlie Anderson, who graduated from UT Knoxville with a marketing degree.
It’s significant, Rabenold says, that $70.5 million of the total donations have come from current and retired members of the faculty and staff through the family campaign.
“This shows a remarkable level of commitment to the university,” he says. “It demonstrates confidence in the institution and that people believe in the institution and its direction.”
Despite reaching the goal, the campaign is continuing, for there are still many ways the University of Tennessee needs support.