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CU nears $4 billion capital campaign goal

Columbia’s capital campaign may have recently reached $3.8 billion, but University officials think they may be able to exceed the campaign’s $4 billion goal by its Dec. 2011 end date.

The Columbia Campaign, launched in the fall of 2006, was originally conceived to raise $4 billion for all schools and colleges within the University, and administrators hope that additional donations will be able to put them over the top by the Campaign’s conclusion.

At the time when it was announced on Sept. 29, 2006, it was the largest campaign in the history of higher education. But, shortly after, on Oct. 10, 2006, Stanford University announced a $4.3 billion campaign.

“Compared to our peers, we’ve been doing spectacularly well,” Dan Baker, executive director of university donor relations and CC ’76, said. “The combination of money, vision, and leadership is powerful. That’s what’s happening at Columbia.”

Baker has been involved with the Capital Campaign since its inception, and said the leadership of University President Lee Bollinger and Susan Feagin, executive vice president for university development and alumni relations, has been crucial to the campaign’s success.

Feagin had high hopes for the campaign’s future fundraising. “We hope that at the end of the day we can raise a lot more than $4 billion for Columbia,” she said.

And as fundraising for the campaign begins to wind down, University monetary allotments have more clearly shaped up.

According to Baker, the campaign will have many effects on student life at Columbia. Enhanced financial aid and endowed professorships have been key goals of the effort, as well as shoring up Columbia’s endowment. “The goal of the campaign was for 40 percent of funds to go into endowment. You’re always trying to balance current needs with the needs of the future,” he said.

Baker also stressed the campaign’s commitment to making undergraduate education more affordable—for example, the money gifted to Columbia by the late philanthropist John Kluge, CC ’37, is dedicated entirely to student scholarships. “One of the things that keeps Columbia vibrant and diverse is its ability to bring the best and brightest here, regardless of their ability to pay,” Baker said.

Over $1 billion of the goal will be devoted to the Columbia University Medical Center. Manhattanville, Baker said, was not the focus of the campaign.

Four billion may have been an ambitious goal, but University officials tapped into what wound up being some of their best resources: former students.

Jerry Kisslinger, executive director for communications at the Office of Alumni and Development, noted the campaign’s reliance on Columbia alumni and friends. And according to Fred Van Sickle, vice president for university development, the campaign has aimed to connect these alumni to the University and each other using a multipronged strategy that includes internet outreach, alumni clubs, and networks.

“The biggest strategy is the creation of the Columbia Alumni Association,” which was founded in 2005, Kisslinger said. “Prior to that, there wasn’t a really strong university alumni association. It’s really been building over those years.”

Donors such as Michael Hindus, CC ’68, who gave a $100,000 charitable remainder trust to provide support to Columbia’s American studies program, are representative of this strong alumni network. “I have not contributed to Columbia for over 40 years, but I was very impressed with what [American Studies Director] Andy Delbanco has done with the Center for American Studies. ... Since this was my academic home at Columbia, it seemed fitting to contribute,” Hindus, who was an American history major, said.

After attaining a doctorate in history and teaching at the university level, Hindus attended Harvard Law School and has spent 30 years practicing energy law. “Harvard Law School hits me up for money, but I tell them that all my contributions for education go to Columbia,” Hindus said. “I call it academic socialism—taking my Harvard-earned dollars and donating it to the less well-endowed, but more deserving, Columbia.”

Feagin, who graduated from the School of General Studies in 1974, also thought that tapping into school pride had helped the fundraising effort, noting how successful GS alumni have been as contributors.

“As an alum and donor myself, that’s been very special and personally satisfying for me—something I hope I would have done even if I hadn’t been employed at Columbia,” she said.

Van Sickle echoed this positivity. “This effort has really tapped into this vein of energy and enthusiasm for Columbia that people hadn’t had the outlets to express. People feel greater pride, greater enthusiasm, a greater desire to be involved.”


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CU_Alum posted on

"Columbia’s capital campaign may have recently reached $3.8 billion, but University officials think they may be able to exceed the campaign’s $4 billion goal by its Dec. 2011 end date."

Columbia raises over $500 million per year, but this article suggests that there's real doubt re its ability to raise $200 million over the next 14 months. The real question is not whether CU will exceed the goal but by how much.