Approximately 300 Kansas University alumni, friends, university administrators and faculty members were invited to a program Saturday evening at Allen Fieldhouse to launch the public portion of the university’s $1.2 billion capital campaign.
Various speakers told of the need for private funds if KU is to elevate its academic and research excellence. Approximately $620 million already has been raised, and attendees were told their help and generosity were needed to raise another $600 million to hit, or and likely surpass, the $1.2 billion goal.
It’s a challenging task, particularly in today’s economic environment, but, based on the recent history of fundraising by the KU Endowment Association of more than $100 million a year, it is likely the goal will be met or surpassed by the June 2016 target date.
The well-orchestrated program highlighted a number of individuals who told of their respective fields of study and research along with individuals who attributed their success to the schooling and inspiration they received during their years at Mount Oread.
“Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas” is the university’s fourth and largest capital campaign. The first, Program for Progress, was launched in 1964 with a goal of $18 million and ended up raising $21 million.
The next drive was “Campaign Kansas” in 1987 with an initial goal of $150 million and an eventual total of $262 million. “KU First” with an original goal of $500 million eventually raised $653 million.
The university has many assets. Over the years, it has been blessed with some outstanding chancellors and some not-so-outstanding chancellors and a number of great faculty members who have played such a positive role in teaching and inspiring their students.
However, the greatest asset of the university and the true stars at the Saturday dinner are the school’s alumni. These thousands upon thousands of former students have a special tie and affection with their school and they are loyal during good times as well as bad times. They have demonstrated their loyalty and interest in the past and will continue to do so, but university officials should not take this very special relationship for granted.
It has been tested in the past and it likely will be tested again.
One of the university’s outstanding chancellors, the late Franklin Murphy, used to say the generous private support of the university by its alumni was the “frosting on the cake” that made the difference between KU being an average, state-aided institution and an outstanding school.
Former Chancellor Gene Budig once said, “I know of no university that can claim greater loyalty and affection from its alumni than KU.”
This is not automatic. Enlightened, imaginative and visionary leadership is needed to justify and encourage continued alumni support.
KU faces many challenges, but there also are opportunities to make the school an even greater institution. A successful “Far Above” campaign that raises $1.2 billion will give university leaders the opportunity to showcase their abilities to build the university into a regional or national leader, which, in turn, will energize and enthuse its alumni and friends.