Virginia Tech’s fundraising consultants said the university might be able to raise $800 million in a comprehensive campaign but cautioned that it would be a stretch.
Despite that advice, university officials and campaign volunteers believed their institution was ready to join the ranks of schools capable of reaching a billion-dollar goal.
As it turns out, they were right.
On Nov. 12, 2011, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger announced that $1.11 billion in outright gifts, pledge payments, or commitments of future support was received between July 1, 2003, when the campaign began, and June 30, 2011, when counting toward the $1 billion goal stopped.
Speaking of the consultants who were leery of that goal, Steger said, “We followed our instincts. Our outside experts couldn’t know what it’s like to be inside the Hokie Nation. They don’t know the depths of support our friends and alumni have for this institution. And they had no idea what happens when you challenge the Hokie Nation with a goal.”
Only a fraction of the nation’s colleges or universities are supported by a community of alumni, friends, faculty, and staff to such degree that a $1 billion campaign is possible.
To put Virginia Tech’s achievement in national context: In November 2010, 36 institutions – 1.6 percent of the nation’s 2,221 not-for-profit four-year colleges or universities – were engaged in such ambitious campaigns, according to statistics from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics.
To put the campaign in its historical context at Virginia Tech: In absolute dollars, the university raised more than three times as much as it did during its last major fundraising campaign. Even when adjusted for inflation, The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future generated twice as much as The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Making a World of Difference, which closed in 1998 after raising $337.42 million, approximately $470 million in 2011 dollars.
During the recent campaign, hundreds of new endowments were funded to support scholarships, dozens were created to support faculty, more than 140 were created to support academic areas, and dozens more were created to support research, Virginia Cooperative Extension programs, or University Libraries. Tens of millions were raised for building renovations or new facilities.
Vice President for Development and University Relations Elizabeth “Betsy” Flanagan said the campaign’s outstanding result was exciting not for its own sake, but for how it will transform Virginia Tech and the lives of those it serves.
The major impact that giving can have on students’ lives was highlighted during the closing ceremony, when six scholarship recipients shared their stories with the audience.
“I’ve been able to travel to professional conferences and attend workshops on grant writing, ethics, and leadership,” said Booker, who has already earned two Virginia Tech degrees – a bachelor’s of psychology in 2009 and a master’s in that subject in 2011.
“The financial assistance I’ve received has eliminated funding concerns and allowed me to pursue my passion for [my] research, which focuses on how positive social interactions make a difference in the lives of children and teenagers,” he said.
Approximately 1,000 of the campaign’s most generous supporters attended the closing. Along with making generous donations, many of them had dedicated considerable time to promoting the university while serving on various campaign committees. In all, nearly 900 volunteers served on committees.
Each of the university’s 16 regional campaign drives exceeded its fundraising goals.
J. Pearson of Lavonia, Ga., who earned his bachelor’s of agricultural and applied economics in 1987, served on one committee that focused on the Atlanta region and another that raised money for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.
Along with his wife, Renae Collier Pearson, who earned her bachelor’s degree in family and child development in 1990, he made dozens of gifts during the campaign, including a generous one on its very last day. They directed that particular gift to the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets J. and Renae Pearson Endowment.
“My Corps of Cadets training really helped me in business life,” said J. Pearson, the founder and president of Carry-On Trailer Inc. “I own a company that has 1,000 employees and plants across the country, and I feel like Virginia Tech helped me to do that.”
Thanks to his generosity and that of tens of thousands of participants in the campaign, generations of Hokies will be able to reach their goals as well.
Six students who benefitted from scholarships shared their stories at the campaign closing ceremony. Three of them – Christine Barry, Thanh Lu, and Sandy Bass – are profiled in the My Virginia Tech video series.
Virginia Tech’s fundraising campaign fueled capital projects all across campus.
The fact that Virginia Tech exceeded its $1 billion campaign goal does not mean the university has a billion dollars to spend.
Much of the funds that were counted came in the form of commitments of future support that will not be received for years. More than a quarter of campaign commitments were given in the form of endowments, which means their earnings can be spent, but not the principal.
Meanwhile, over the eight years of the campaign, millions of what was raised has already been spent, some of it on high-profile capital projects.
The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future spelled out five funding priorities that were aligned with strategic aims of the institution. More than half the money committed during the campaign was earmarked to these priorities.
The remaining amount was designated for other areas of the university, according to donor wishes.
During The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, contributors endowed 563 new scholarships; 55 faculty-support funds; 149 funds providing unrestricted support to specific academic areas; and 32 funds supporting research, Extension programs, or University Libraries.
Over the eight years of The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future, more than 300 new households joined the Ut Prosim Society, a select group of the university’s most generous supporters, which was the subject of a 2008 Spotlight on Impact: The Ut Prosim Society: making it possible for Hokies to 'invent the future.'
Current, former, or retired employees committed more than $66 million combined to Virginia Tech during The Campaign for Virginia Tech: Invent the Future. Their generosity was the subject of a 2010 Spotlight on Impact: Current, former, and retired employees donate millions to help their university excel.
On the first day of the campaign, alumnus F. Richard “Dick” Quible made a generous gift toward construction of what is now the Holtzman Alumni Center.
His involvement hardly stopped there, as he served on the National Campaign Steering Committee and co-chaired the University Libraries campaign committee until 2009, when he passed away.
University Libraries surpassed its $6 million campaign goal by large margin, attracting nearly $7.13 million in commitments.
During the campaign, dozens of new funds were created to support talented faculty members.
One researcher who benefitted from that support earlier in his career was Stefan Duma, whose work to analyze football-related head trauma was the subject of an October 2006 Spotlight on Impact: Stefan Duma leads Virginia Tech's drive to reduce impact injuries.
Take a look back at previous Spotlight features in our archive.