Wash. U. reveals largest-ever fundraising campaign has already raised $1.13 billion

| Editor-in-Chief

Chancellor Mark Wrighton first learned how to ask people for money while working as a young paperboy in Florida charged with soliciting money from subscribers.

“I realized how hard it is to collect money, even for good service,” Wrighton said. “Back in those days you couldn’t pay on the Internet and that kind of thing. You’d actually have to physically go knock on the door to find people when they’re having—you know, the prime time is to go at dinnertime when you know people are at home. They didn’t like you interrupting their dinner, but that was often the best time.”

When the Chancellor asks for money now, he actually gets to sit down for the meal. But he noted that it can still be uncomfortable for the people with whom he’s dining.

“Often people ask me, isn’t it hard to ask people for gifts? My wife cringes when we’re in a quasi-social setting and she’s getting indigestion and I’m asking the people—and they may even be paying for dinner—you know, for some major gift. So some people are uncomfortable with it,” Wrighton said.

“It’s interesting, sometimes I make an appointment and I tell people, generally, I would like to talk with you about your participating in our fundraising campaign. It’s amazing, people still want to have lunch and dinner and breakfast meetings and come to my office or I go to their homes, I go to their businesses,” he added.

Since 2009, the Chancellor has worked with hundreds of additional Washington University representatives to raise $1.1 billion in an ongoing campaign that will fund new and renovated University facilities, additional endowed professorships and scholarships, and new research and initiatives.

The campaign is what allowed for the recently completed construction of Green Hall and the ongoing construction of a new building for the Olin School of Business, as well as the creation of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics, Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Jill Friedman said.

It will also fund a major renovation and 66,500 square-foot addition to the University’s Athletic Complex (AC) by 2015, Director of Athletics John Schael said.

The campaign, titled “Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University,” began in 2009 and will run through 2018, during which time the University aims to raise $2.2 billion to build the school’s infrastructure and extend its global impact. It was publically unveiled for the first time at a gala of 1,200 alumni, community members and trustees Saturday night.

With a lead donation of $12 million from trustee Gary Sumers and his wife Rachel, plans to renovate the AC that have been underway for about nine years are suddenly more definite, Schael said.

“We’ve been in the planning stages for about nine years, when we did focus groups on campus in terms of their interest in various facilities related to recreation, athletics, fitness and wellness. And we became more serious about two years ago, and we hired an architectural firm to help guide us as we moved forward.”

“We’re at a point now where we can’t accommodate the needs of the student body and this will go a long way in terms of providing programming opportunities as well as increased and improved services to the users that come down here,” Schael said. “I’ve always felt comfortable and confident in the University’s administration that the need would rise to the top. And sometimes it takes a long time to get there, but we’ve arrived and something positive is going to happen.”

The AC was last renovated in 1985 during a previous University fundraising campaign, when the Field House was built and the facility was made more amenable to women, whose locker room facilities had been visibly inferior to the men’s.

Part of that construction also involved an overhaul of Francis Field, replacing a third-of-a-mile track with a regulation-sized 400-meter track. The wings of the stadium seats were also cut off to move the track closer to the stands, cutting the seating capacity from around 20,000 to 4,000.

But Schael said that most of the current project will be effectively limited to changes with the building itself, including the addition of a three-court gymnasium with a suspended track to the south end of the complex and the conversion of Francis Gymnasium to the Gary and Rachel Sumers Fitness Center—which will primarily house cardiovascular equipment and training equipment.

He estimates that the project will cost at least $40 million, though they have yet to finalize construction plans and select an architect for the job.

“What excites me the most are the opportunities that are going to be available for our students,” Schael said, “and also the fact that people will have the chance to participate in meaningful programs that are going to contribute to a healthy lifestyle, whether that be through an intramural contest, through recreational activity, jogging on the new suspended track, participating in inter-collegiate athletics.”

Sumers, who graduated from the University in 1975, said that while he did not use the Athletic Complex a significant amount as a student, he recognizes that a rising interest in personal fitness and wellness calls for an update of the school’s facilities.

“I don’t remember people being as conscious of their physical activities as everybody is today. I think students today want the whole experience, they want to be able to have a great academic environment, and they also want to be able to see and use great athletic facilities,” Sumers said.

“I wanted to do something, and this seemed like a need and something that was a little different than [a] purely academic initiative but at the same time would be well received by the student population,” he added.

In addition to improving the athletic complex, the University will be creating the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research, courtesy of the family’s $20 million donation.

Michael Tabb | Student Life

The new Knight Hall and Bauer Hall under construction for the Olin Business School was funded in part through the ongoing Leading Together Campaign, which recently exceeded half its goal.


Assuming the University reaches its $2.2 billion goal, $900 million will support additional research and creative projects, $625 million will fund continued efforts to attract and retain faculty, $250 million will expand student scholarships, $225 million will go toward improving facilities, and the remaining $200 million toward as yet unspecified objectives.

But Wrighton stressed that his true hope is to surpass the $2.2 billion goal. The fundraising goal for the University’s last capital campaign, which spanned 1995-2004, was $1 billion, a figure the University surpassed by $550 million.

“If we did everything, we would estimate it would take more than $4 billion. So $2.2 billion will enable us to do a lot,” Wrighton said. “If we do get to $2.2 billion, we’re not going to stop. We have a lot of things that we would like to do that are very important, but we have to be balanced.”

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