USU Comprehensive Campaign passes $300 million mark

Utah State University has reached another milestone in its $400 million Comprehensive Campaign. With still another year and a half to go, the university announced that it has passed the $300 million mark. While the dollar figure is impressive and verifies the success of the campaign so far, the real story is the detail behind the numbers. The strength of the campaign can be measured best by looking at its dramatic impact on the university, according to Ross Peterson, vice president for university advancement. Peterson pointed to five major focus areas that have been affected significantly: (1) the dramatic changes in USU’s physical facilities; (2) the dramatic expansion of regional campuses; (3) the increase in endowments, chairs and professorships; (4) the campaign’s impact on access to education; and, (5) the impact on Aggie athletics. USU President Stan Albrecht said the campaign has been marked by successes at so many levels, and gifts both large and small have contributed to the success of the campaign and will reshape the university and students’ lives for years to come. “We’re on track as we continue to build a university of excellence, a university of promise and a university that epitomizes leadership in all senses of the term,” Albrecht said. “I am particularly pleased to see USU’s endowment grow to nearly $180 million, a 4 percent increase in the past two years.” Peterson pointed out that in the last two years, university endowments nationwide have plummeted. According to figures listed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in fiscal year 2009, Harvard, Yale and Stanford each lost more than 25 percent of their endowment market value. But in the same period, USU had a nearly 4 percent increase — mostly due to new gifts. “That is the best performance among Utah institutions and in the Top 10 nationally of public four-year institutions,” he said. Peterson also said that access to education has been a major priority for the president and the university itself. As an example, Albrecht initiated the Aggie Promise Scholarship program to help first-generation students get a USU education. More than 250 individual donors have contributed to the program, and the scholarship has already been awarded to students who would have had no other way to attend college. “The campaign is a reflection of President Albrecht’s vision for what USU can become, and one of his highest priorities is ensuring access to quality higher education for qualified students of all economic backgrounds,” Peterson said. The campaign is also notable, he said, in the way that campaign gifts have catalyzed other private giving. As an example, a $5 million land gift from Bob Williams in Vernal created the opportunity for a whole new campus in the Uintah Basin. That gift set the stage for a $15 million gift from Marc and Debbie Bingham to construct the Bingham Energy and Entrepreneurship Research Center, with the new building opening this fall. Additional private giving is now creating an endowment to permanently support faculty for the Uintah Basin Campus. A walk across campus, including regional campuses and other statewide facilities, will show the dramatic physical changes made during the campaign, Peterson said. “The campaign is changing the face of our campuses, that much is easy to see after a stroll through the grounds,” Peterson said. “But these new and important physical structures also open the door for other gifts of all sizes, such as a recent gift from Harriet and Wally Rasmussen, for example, to fund a room within one of the new buildings.” He said a lead gift from the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation is funding a massive construction project for its namesake College of Education and Human Services, and the construction of the building opens new opportunities. Dedication of the Emma Eccles Jones Early Childhood Education and Research Building is set for Sept. 14. Other major building projects include the Equine Education Center, the Sant Engineering Building, the Manon Caine Russell Kathryn Caine Wanlass Performance Hall, the Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve and the Laub Athletic Complex. In fact, Peterson said, the Laub Athletic Complex is another example of how one focus area and the individual gifts it generates can change a program and its students’ lives dramatically. Another example from athletics is the Merlin Olsen Field project, where funds are being raised to name the football field in honor of Aggie football’s greatest alumnus. A part of the money raised supports, in turn, the Football Competitive Excellence Fund — which directly positions the USU football team for success in WAC play. As of Aug. 6, the total raised to date is $301.7 million, or 75.4 percent of the goal.

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