The Commitment to Learning campaign was ambitious from the start. When University officials launched the seven-year initiative in 1993, their goal was to raise $300 million for scholarships, new educational technologies, endowed professorships, and new academic and research programs. The $300 million mark was surpassed one year early; the campaign ultimately netted more than $365 million in gifts, pledges, and corporate and foundation support—the largest amount raised in SU history.
A long list of achievements marks the success of the Commitment to Learning campaign. In addition to a $20 million anonymous gift from a trustee, gifts of $4 million or more came from several individuals, including:
The estate of Ruth Freeman Meyer ’24, for the Ruth and Herbert Meyer Endowed Scholarship and other unrestricted uses.
Gerald Cramer ’52, to support the Gerald and Daphna Cramer Professors of Global Affairs at theeMaxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the expansion of Maxwell programs worldwide.
The estate of L. Douglas Meredith ’26, G’27, for the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Endowed Professorship.
Rose ’33 and Jules R. Setnor ’32, G’35, for the Rose, Jules R., and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music and the Setnor Auditorium in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
The William C. Fleming Educational Unitrust, established by SU Professor Emeritus William C. Fleming, to support tenure track positions in the Department of Fine Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Gary and Karen Winnick ’68, for the Hillel Center for Jewish Life, the Winnick Endowed Scholarship, and the SU Literacy Corps.
Lansing G. Baker G’64, G’72, senior vice president for University Relations, attributes the campaign’s success to a strategic fund-raising approach and solid teamwork among University Relations staff members. “When a team knows and understands how important strong academic institutions are to the well-being of the entire nation, seeking and receiving gifts becomes an easy proposition,” says Baker, who guided the campaign with former vice president for development Sid Micek. “Our team shared a vision and commitment to the campaign that fostered its success.”
Lansing G. Baker
Integral to this success was the team’s ability to listen to individual donors and address their needs in a meaningful way, by encouraging their continued investment in their alma mater, Baker says. Donors understood that without external funding and a stable student enrollment, the University could not move forward and maintain its high standards of academic excellence.
Several outstanding gifts from individuals ranging up to $20 million—the largest gift from an individual in the University’s history—played a significant role in advancing the initiative. Out of a pool of 170,000 alumni, more than 46,000 contributed to the campaign—an impressive show of support. Scholarship funding was a top campaign priority, and $66.9 million was raised for endowed scholarships and annual financial aid. These scholarships support a diverse community of students and demonstrate the University’s commitment to innovative student-centered education. “We thank all alumni, parents, and friends for the important part they played in helping us achieve this extraordinary success,” Baker says. “We are grateful for this support and for continued support in the years to come.”
Gaining such support required the University Relations team to adapt to an ever-changing economy. “National and international events that affect fiscal solvency did not adversely affect our ability to maintain a steady stream of gifts,” Baker says. “The fact that we have a compelling story to tell about Syracuse University was enough to convince our donors that giving to SU is a worthy cause in any situation.”
As the campaign wraps up, there’s no better evidence of this than in the numbers. During the campaign, SU received more than 70 gifts of $1 million or greater; in SU’s last campaign, only 22 gifts exceeded $1 million. “There are many worthy causes out there for people to support financially,” Baker says. “The key to our success in attracting support was to convince our donors that SU’s mission is attainable.”
As the University looks to the future, it must continue to identify potential donors, Baker says. “With the accomplishments of the campaign in mind, and new goals set for the future,” he says, “the components of high energy, resiliency, integrity, and humility combined with a thick skin, great timing, and a little luck, will bring success to any development campaign.”
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