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Centennial Campaign to reach $1.1 billion goal soon
STANFORD -- As if they were lottery regulars, many workers on the third floor of Encina Hall call a 12-digit number onto their computer screens each morning before pouring a cup of coffee.
As of June 4, it read 109237812175, or roughly $8 million short of signaling celebration time.
Richard Bennett, the "numbers man" at the Development Office is betting the magic number of $1.1 billion will pop up in the week before or after the university's 100th commencement on June 16. He won't say if he's set any odds, however.
Whenever it happens, the employees of Stanford's Office of Development don't expect to celebrate long. Once they reach their record-setting goal of raising $1.1 billion during Stanford's five- year Centennial Campaign, they plan to go right back to work.
There are still eight months left to the campaign, and the bottom line number never was as important to the 8,700 volunteers and 111 paid fundraisers, some of them insist, as achieving the academic goals Stanford announced to the world 52 months ago.
Then, the university unveiled its "featured objectives" under three headings: facilities, undergraduate education and "community of scholars" enhancement. In particular, it set out to strengthen its ability to do research at the sharpest cutting edges, to supply the nation with replacement university faculty and to challenge "superachiever" undergraduates.
In some areas, the campaigners have been enormously successful. The largesse already shows on campus in the form of the Kimball dormitory under construction, the newly opened Ford athletics center, the Gilbert biology building to be dedicated this fall and nameplates on doors recognizing newly endowed professors.
In other areas, campaigners are still struggling to find ways to transform dreams to reality. Overall as of June 3, the campaign had raised 86 percent of the funds needed for its top priorities or "featured objectives."
When Stanford announced its Centennial Campaign in February 1987, most observers on and off campus didn't pay much heed to the details -- the academic objectives. They focused their attention on the bottom line. The university had set a record fundraising goal for any higher education institution.
Since then, three others -- the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and Cornell -- have announced campaign goals in the $1 billion-plus category. Stanford still expects to be the first to cross the finish line.
Now, because of events beyond the control of campaigners, some on campus might be tempted to view this pace- setting effort as "a hollow victory," said history Prof. John Wirth, who, as vice provost, headed the faculty's involvement in the campaign.
Thanks to a costly earthquake in 1989 and a costly controversy over federal research funding in 1991, Wirth said, "the university is entering a period of wrenching self-analysis," one in which its academic and fundraising goals will undoubtedly be recalibrated.
"In the meantime, I worry that we'll forget to acknowledge the skilled, enthusiastic people who really have made this a better place into the future by raising $1.1 billion from corporations, foundations and individuals," he said. "This is not a hollow victory."
What exactly has the campaign accomplished?
It depends on whom you ask. Some will tell you about the bricks, mortar and investment portfolios. Those are the traditional measurements of a campaign.
Stanford has done well in those categories overall, despite some specific disappointments, say Wirth and John Ford, vice president for development. Because donors ultimately decide which "featured objectives" will be the reached, no institution ever gets exactly what it wants, Ford points out.
A small portion of the money raised during the Centennial Campaign goes directly to the university's operating budget. However, most of the contributions are restricted for specific purposes, such as building projects, equipment and endowment funds. The $2.1 billion endowment, which is invested in stocks, bonds, real estate and other investments, contributes approximately 14 percent of the current operating budget each year.
Initially, Stanford hoped to raise $207 million for buildings: $180 million to replace outmoded science and engineering research facilities, $15 million for athletic and recreation facilities, and $12 million for student residences.
But then, the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake brought an estimated $160 million in damages to existing facilities. Trailers and other makeshift facilities sprung up like quack grass as campus planners and government disaster relief officials scratched their heads over what to do on a more permanent basis. Eventually, the committees overseeing campaign priorities shifted the fundraising goals to include $40 million for earthquake-related construction and repair projects.
"The verdict is still out" on how well the campaign will do on these latecomer goals, said Bennett, who is associate campaign director.
"The problem is that building projects take definition before you can ask donors to give," Ford said. "Negotiations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are still going on over what the federal government is able to fund. We've really only had the opportunity to move on renovation of the Business School and Memorial Church. We are just getting started now on the museum.
"The church fundraising has gone exceedingly well. The tough part, frankly, will be the Inner Quad renovation -- places like Geology Corner and Language Corner. They don't seem to have the visibility or appeal the church does."
Fundraising for new student residences has been a "pleasant surprise," he said. The secret to the new-found success was that two trustees stepped forward to initiate the project and were quickly joined by two other major donors. As of June 1, fundraising for student residences stood at $15.4 million, well beyond the original goal of $12 million.
Science and engineering facilities for phase 1 of the university's Near West campus were cut back after the quake. The campaign raised $91 million for the Gilbert Biology, Information Sciences and Earth Sciences buildings as well as for the Near West campus region in general.
"I expect the deans and provost to defer some of Near West campus in the short run," Ford said. "Later phases of the project will have to be rethought in terms of budget constraints, including indirect cost recovery issues and how much building we can afford, particularly in the sciences.
"That's why we are working very hard to finish off the Earth Sciences building and the Information Sciences building in phase 1. These are two of a few large gifts we still need to meet some of our featured objectives." Information Sciences has gone through several redesign phases to curb its cost.
Donors have made a major shift away from financing buildings the last two decades, Ford said, not just at Stanford but nationally. The burgeoning cost of buildings, especially research facilities, is partly responsible, he said, but also the universities' success convincing donors that "people and programs" are equally lasting investments.
Community of scholars
In that vein, one of the successes of the campaign has been endowed professorships. Overall, the university has raised $117 million for 70 academic chairs, which, at Stanford, are primarily a way of ensuring a long-term commitment to a particular school or field of study.
A donor who contributes $1.2 million or more to an endowed chair gets name recognition, and the occupant of the chair gets the honor plus a modest amount of additional money for expenses. For the dean of a school, or for the provost in the case of those professorships left to the university's discretion as a whole, an endowed professorship means a predictable stream of future income.
"Faculty scholars, which are term appointments for up to three years and cost half the price of a regular chair, have been particularly successful as fundraising tools and as ways to attract and hold our emerging stars," Wirth said.
Some schools, however, have been more successful than others.
"There are those on campus who are disappointed that we haven't been more successful in meeting objectives for the School of Humanities and Sciences," Ford said. "But quite frankly, that's an area that has not historically attracted support. We've been so much more successful this time that it bodes well for the future."
Endowments for library curatorships and book purchase and conservation funds have been successful also, Bennett said. These are all devices the university and donors use to secure the future strength of academics by decreasing a particular program's dependence on the university's fluctuating annual income resources.
Endowed graduate student fellowships is another area that has worked well, fundraisers say, with $34 million already raised.
"This is a particularly critical link between the training of future professors for the nation and teaching our undergraduate students," Wirth said. At a time when National Science Foundation support is declining for graduate students in the sciences, the university either must come up with more graduate fellowship support from private donors or reduce the number of future scholars it trains.
Overall, the campaign has raised $160 million -- 76 percent of its goal -- for a range of endowment funds that bolster the "community of scholars."
Equally successful has been the campaign's effort on behalf of undergraduate education. As of May 31, a total of $96 million had been raised -- 92 percent of the undergraduate education goal.
Approximately $35 million of the total was raised for endowed scholarships, an ongoing priority in Stanford's annual fundraising program.
"Our new emphasis during this campaign was on making a qualitative type of improvement in non-classroom education," Wirth said, especially to meet the demands of a growing group of "superachievers" in the undergraduate student body.
Stanford has always offered undergraduates opportunities to learn outside the classroom by doing research and public service or by studying at overseas campuses, he said. "We needed to offer more opportunities in these areas because we are getting a lot more demand from our students."
Campaign goals to address student needs included funds for undergraduate research, interdisciplinary teaching programs, and endowed professorships awarded to "centennial scholars" for outstanding their undergraduate teaching. Gifts have been received for seven of the 12 centennial professorships sought.
Plans to improve Meyer Library, the primary undergraduate library on campus, were dropped after the earthquake, and a goal of raising funds for existing residence-based education programs hasn't been as successful as hoped. Structured Liberal Education, an extremely popular residence-based program for freshmen, for instance, "may need stronger advocacy to excite donors about it as well," Wirth said.
"The race isn't over yet. There's still a lot of calls to be made in the next few months."
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