After four years of fundraising, Kansas University leaders announced Saturday night that they hope an ongoing campaign will raise $1.2 billion for the school, adding that they are already halfway toward that goal.
The campaign, Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, publicly launched Saturday at a donors-only event at Allen Fieldhouse.
KU leaders said that, especially in a time where state and federal government resources are holding steady or dwindling, private donations are becoming increasingly important for universities.
“Reaching this goal will help very much in enabling the university to achieve success in what we want to achieve,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
She said that in addition to the traditional sorts of ways universities use private funds — scholarships, faculty professorships, and new and renovated buildings — the school would look for other ways to expand opportunities for students, particularly in areas such as study abroad and undergraduate research.
More than half of the money, $612 million, has already been raised. Support for the school’s National Cancer Institute drive has been a major hallmark of the funding. A fundraising council in Kansas City helped generate $62 million for the cause, and more money has been contributed since the group concluded its work before the school applied for designation in September, including a $10.5 million gift from the Hall Family Foundation in February.
Other donations include a $32 million gift from the estate of Charles E. and Mary Jane Bruckmiller Spahr for scholarships, programs and professorships for the school, and a $5 million lead gift from Chesapeake Energy Corp. in Oklahoma City in support of a $28 million expansion for Lindley Hall.
The campaign is scheduled to continue through June 2016. Three alumni couples are involved in leadership of the campaign: Kurt and Sue Watson of Andover, who are serving as chairs of the campaign, and co-chairs Mark and Stacy Parkinson of Potomac, Md., and Tom and Jill Docking of Wichita.
“I think that we should feel very good about where we are in the campaign,” Kurt Watson said. “And in particular if you think about the economic period, we are working our way through.”
Gray-Little and other academic leaders have created a wish list associated with the campaign that includes many big-ticket items.
The School of Business is hoping to fund a new building, an expanding School of Engineering is looking for more construction funding and the Spencer Museum of Art is trying to fund an expansion, too.
Dale Seuferling, president of the KU Endowment Association, said that while buildings often stand as permanent reminders of how universities can use private funds, much of the effort will be focused on things that people can’t see as they walk down the street.
“People can see and experience the capital projects,” he said. “But the bulk of the funding goes to support people and programs.”
The campaign’s goals are:
• $175 million for facilities.
• $400 million for student scholarships and other opportunities.
• $325 million for academic, research and other programs.
• $300 million for faculty professorships and recruitment.
“It’s very rewarding and very exciting as an opportunity to impact the institution in a significant way,” Seuferling said.
So far, donors have supported the creation of 246 new scholarships and 14 new professorships.
Studies show that during fundraising campaigns, donations may increase by about 20 to 30 percent over a normal level of giving, Seuferling said. But they also serve to rally the university community and alumni around a central cause.
“They seem to raise the profile of the institution and its case for the university in a way that you can’t do otherwise,” Seuferling said.