Kansas University officials are on the verge of announcing the largest fund-raising campaign in school history.
"KU First: Investing in Excellence" will attempt to raise $500 million for the university, nearly double the amount raised in the last campaign from 1987 to 1992.
A successful campaign would increase by almost 50 percent the market value of the KU Endowment Association's holdings of just more than $1 billion.
"One of the reasons KU can have the ambition and aspiration to be in the top 25 universities is because of the KU Endowment Association," Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "The endowment becomes very, very important to the sense of identity and sense of goals for the university. This is an opportunity for people to demonstrate their affection and to connect to and show their belief in the university."
Endowment officials and an 18-member steering committee have been in the "quiet phase" of the campaign for about two years, securing large gifts from donors. The association takes proposals for giving to alumni and other potential donors.
"What you try to do is match the needs of the university with the interest of a specific donor," said John Scarffe, the association's director of communications.
Most of the "quiet phase" donations will be announced when the campaign goes public Sept. 7 with a gala ceremony. Official ceremony plans will be announced in August.
Campaign chairman Forrest Hoglund said capital campaign planners typically want to have half of their money raised before a public announcement. He wouldn't say how close the endowment was to raising $250 million.
Hoglund, a 1956 KU graduate who lives in Dallas and is retired chairman of the board of directors at Enron Oil & Gas Co., has donated $7 million to the campaign, including $4 million toward a brain imaging center at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Hoglund said the Medical Center would be a major focus of the goals announced this fall, but he said 80 percent of the money will go to the Lawrence campus. Other funds will go toward scholarships and professorships. The state will match donations of more than $500,000 for distinguished professorships.
New buildings on the Lawrence campus also are in the plans, but Hoglund declined to identify the buildings before the September announcement.
The KU Endowment Association has conducted two other major fund-raisers in its history. The most recent, "Campaign Kansas," ran from 1987 to 1992 and raised $265.3 million, after an original goal of $100 million.
The "Program for Progress" raised $21 million from 1966 to 1969.
Frank Becker, a member of the campaign's steering committee, said he thought $500 million was "a very realistic goal." Becker, of Lawrence, graduated from KU in 1958 and is president of Becker Investments Inc.
"A lot of universities and churches are going into major campaigns," he said. "I think the market we've had for the last few years left people with cash or stocks they can give."
He acknowledged the latest market slowdown might hurt the campaign.
"But there's a whole other sector that's doing fine," he said. "I think the people in the United States are pretty benevolent. The timing is good. People seem to be somewhat affluent."
Hoglund said the campaign would help determine KU's success in the future.
"This kind of effort is critical for KU," he said. "You're not going to have a great university without the private support."