KU Endowment fundraising campaign tops record with $1.66 billion

The University of Kansas Endowment Association reported this week that it raised $1.66 billion in its just-completed five-year fundraising campaign, far exceeding its original goal of $1.2 billion.

That makes the campaign, “Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas,” which officially ended June 30, the largest higher education fundraising effort so far in state history.

“The success of ‘Far Above’ is a testament to the confidence our alumni and friends have in KU,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said. “Every gift sent a message that our donors want to elevate KU to greater heights.”

Money raised from the campaign will help fund 16 new buildings or major renovations on campus, along with 53 new professorships and 735 new scholarships and fellowships, the Endowment Association said.

Dale Seuferling, president of KU Endowment, said the focus of the new scholarships was to offset the rising cost of tuition, which has risen significantly in recent years in the face of flat or declining state funding.

More than one-third of all the money raised, $523 million, was earmarked for student support, KU Endowment said.

Seuferling said that with students facing increasing costs of attaining higher education, “scholarships help make that a more level playing field.”

Many of the new scholarships are earmarked for specific schools and degree programs, but many are also designated for students in financial need, Seuferling said.

“They’re pretty broad-based across all areas of the university,” he said.

KU officials began planning for the capital campaign in 2008 as KU was preparing for new leadership, shortly before Gray-Little was named the new chancellor.

That was at the beginning of the Great Recession, which caused KU officials to be more conservative in their initial planning, Seuferling said.

The public kickoff of the campaign began in April 2012, and it generated donations from more than 131,000 donors, nearly half of whom were new donors. People from all 50 states and 59 countries made donations, KU Endowment said.

The largest single gift, $58 million, came from late alumni Al and Lila Self. But 87 percent of the gifts were from individuals donating $500 or less, and just over half of the donations came from Kansas residents.

Seuferling said the top priority early on was gaining National Cancer Institute designation for the KU Cancer Center in Kansas City because there was a deadline for that. That was achieved in June 2012.

“As the economy recovered, we were able to be more aggressive with fundraising for other projects,” Seuferling said. “When people looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the worst was behind them, they were more forthcoming with support.”

Among the new buildings and renovations on the Lawrence campus that were funded through the campaign were Capital Federal Hall, which now houses the School of Business; the Forum at Marvin Hall; the Lied Center Pavilion; renovations to the Spencer Museum of Art and Swarthout Recital Hall; and the KU Clinical Research Center.

Funds also went toward the Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion and the Cambridge North Tower at KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kan.