Fund-raiser finale honors U donors

Branden Peterson

University officials announced Wednesday that the seven-year fund-raising drive Campaign Minnesota raised more than $1.6 billion dollars for the entire University system.

The amount surpassed the crusade’s $1.3 billion goal, and also set a record as the second largest fund-raising campaign ever completed by a public university, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The success of this campaign and the generosity of so many donors has been nothing short of spectacular,” University President Bob Bruininks said as he addressed the crowd.

As a gold banner was unrolled from the balcony, revealing the campaign’s grand total of $1,655,703,867, Bruininks pumped his fists and supporters yelled, clapped, cheered and sang the Minnesota Rouser.

After the balloons and confetti had fallen to the ground, Bruininks asked jokingly, “Who’s cleaning this up?”

“Union workers,” said Stefanie Levi, a clerical worker in the University’s health studies department and an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 member.

Members of AFSCME Local 3800, the union representing more than 1,800 University clerical workers, attended at the ceremony to protest the University’s proposed wage freezes, health-care cost increases and benefit reductions.

Money from the campaign cannot be used to meet employee health-care costs or to settle union contract disputes, Bruininks said.

The funds will be used for repairing old classrooms, building new facilities, creating hundreds of new scholarships and fellowships, and funding new research.

Research projects were the biggest benefactors of the project, receiving $544.2 million in funds, according to Campaign Minnesota.

More than 220,000 donors contributed to the campaign. More than half – approximately 113,000 – were first-time givers to the University, according to Campaign Minnesota.

Approximately 85,600 alumni contributed to the project, and 11,000 faculty and staff added $67 million to the campaign.

Donors added 651 scholarships and 418 fellowships every year during the campaign. Fund raising also raised approximately $683 million toward endowments Bruininks said will benefit programs for years to come.

On behalf of the Board of Regents, Chairman David Metzen thanked Bruininks for his work, and thanked attendees for their continued support of the University.

“This is a culmination of a long, arduous and totally stimulating quest for excellence at the University of Minnesota,” Metzen said.

College of Human Ecology Dean Shirley Baugher said Campaign Minnesota put her college in contact with supporters who wanted to give back but did not know how.

Conversations led to donations, and the college now has many new scholarships and fellowships for human ecology students.

“It’s a real testimony to the work that’s happening here and that people have a real understanding that this place is important to the economic and social fabric of Minnesota,” she said.

Not all contributions have been appropriated yet, but Bruininks estimated 95 percent to 98 percent of contributions have been earmarked to specific projects.

– Jake Weyer contributed to this report.