Alumni Relations and Development

Mellody Hobson, George Lucas, and the Lucas Family Foundation’s gift supports the Laboratory Schools’ new Gordon Parks Arts Hall, role of the arts at Lab.

Mellody Hobson, George Lucas, and the Lucas Family Foundation’s gift supports the Laboratory Schools’ new Gordon Parks Arts Hall and the role of the arts at Lab. (Illustration by Visualized Concepts)
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Supported by the record-setting philanthropy of its alumni and friends, the University of Chicago heads into the public phase of the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history.

Record year establishes campaign momentum

In May, the University announced its intention to launch the public phase of the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact. The most ambitious and comprehensive campaign in the University’s history, the campaign will raise $4.5 billion to support faculty and researchers, practitioners and patients, and students and programs across the University.

The UChicago Campaign received a significant boost from unprecedented support during the 2014 fiscal year. Alumni, parents, and friends contributed $511 million: an 11 percent increase from fiscal year 2013 and the most ever raised in one year by the University.

The record-setting year was the result of 64,953 individual gifts made by 47,149 donors. These gifts spanned the breadth of the University, helping many areas—from Chicago Booth to Court Theatre to the Urban Education Institute—to surpass one or more of their fundraising goals for the year.

In announcing the UChicago Campaign, University trustee and campaign chair Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, cited the thousands of individuals and organizations that “believe deeply in the importance of the critical nature of the University of Chicago’s work, and are honored to support it.”

During the quiet phase, the UChicago Campaign raised more than $2 billion—surpassing the original goal of the University’s previous campaign, the Chicago Initiative, which ran from 2000 to 2008.

Global connections

Engagement is a key goal of the UChicago Campaign, reflecting the Alumni Association’s efforts to build an even stronger University community by encouraging greater involvement of alumni, parents, and friends in University activities. To that end, the campaign aims to engage 125,000 alumni over the next five years.

Again, fiscal year 2014 proved to have an excellent trajectory, as the number of alumni and friends making connections with the University and each other continued to grow. As a result, since the beginning of the campaign's quiet phase, more than 81,000 alumni have engaged with the University in some way, both in person and, increasingly, digitally.

In fiscal year 2014, more than 10,000 alumni volunteered their time to the University. To foster volunteering, the Alumni Board of Governors hosted its annual Volunteer Caucus in San Francisco in 2014. Of the 142 volunteers who came—traveling from as far away as Boston and Washington, DC—72 percent were attending their first Volunteer Caucus. Participants chose from programming based on their level of experience as a volunteer, with tracks for new volunteers, veteran volunteers seeking new experiences or greater responsibility, and established volunteer leaders. And, befitting the caucus’s location in the tech-heavy Bay Area, presenters included Matthew Tirrell, Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering, who described IME’s efforts to apply molecular-level science to solving major technological problems of global significance.

The Harper Lecture series, which sends University faculty to cities around the globe to talk about subjects from blues music to welfare reform, has been a staple of off-campus programming for UChicago alumni and friends. During the 2013–14 academic year, the series went worldwide. More than 2,000 alumni, parents, and friends attended 43 lectures in locations from Washington, DC, to Bangalore, India.

The UChicago Community Online (UCCO) also continued to grow. From two groups in 2012, UCCO has expanded to include 40 sites. The Association of Black Alumni, Life Sciences Alumni Group, and Alumni Law Society all joined UCCO’s online platform in 2014, as did 10 alumni clubs and the Alumni Career Services site. In the course of the year, some 17,000 users logged in—some 2,000 more than in fiscal year 2013.

Even as the global UChicago community expands, there’s nothing quite like returning to campus. In an old tradition recently given new life, 2,479 alumni, parents, and friends came back to Hyde Park on Saturday, October 19, for Homecoming 2013: a 13 percent increase from the previous year. Guests enjoyed the second annual Homecoming Block Party and the football game—a 26–7 win over Macalester. Meanwhile, 600 current students turned out on Friday for the first Maroon Madness pep rally, cosponsored by the Alumni Association and the Department of Athletics.

In June, more than 6,000 alumni and guests returned to campus for Alumni Weekend 2014. Attendees enjoyed UnCommon Core Lectures, tours of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, and the UChicaGO Party, as well as the Alumni Beer Garden. The 73rd annual Alumni Awards Ceremony, an opportunity for alumni to recognize outstanding contributions by their peers, featured Alumni Medalist Donald F. Steiner, MD’56, SM’56; Professional Achievement awardees Leon Kass, LAB’54, SB’58, MD’62, and Bret Stephens, AB’95; and Public Service awardee Senator Bernie Sanders, AB’64.

Community through philanthropy

The University’s fundraising efforts shared the same spirit of community. For the second consecutive year, the College marked 41 percent participation (14,243 donors) from its alumni, and three graduating classes made record-setting gifts.

The highest number ever of graduating fourth-years—1,013—participated in the College’s Senior Class Gift, with individual members of the Class of 2014 directing their gifts to the College Fund, the Dean’s Fund for Student Life, and the Odyssey Scholarship Challenge. The students raised $27,400 in direct donations, reaching a grand total of $107,000 thanks to matching challenges from alumni and University trustees including James S. Crown, LLD’11, and Paul G. Yovovich, AB’74, MBA’75.

The class gift got an extra boost from Max Leichtman, AB’99, MBA’07, and Julie Leichtman, AB’99, in honor of their 15th reunion. On April 2, the Leichtmans challenged the Class of 2014 to make 50 gifts in one day. Instead, the class made 161 gifts, raising more than $5,000 for Odyssey Scholarships.

The Classes of 2014 at Chicago Booth and the Law School set records of their own.

The Law School’s 75 percent participation rate and total gift of $38,995 were all-time highs. The success of this and other recent graduating class gift campaigns at the Law School prompted Charles (JD’75) and Peter (JD’10) Wolf to endow the Wolf Family Student Philanthropy Program, a giving challenge program. A portion of the gift went to a bench installed in the Law School garden and dedicated in memory of Laura LaPlante, a member of the Class of 2014, who died in May 2014.

To both facilitate and develop a habit of giving, Chicago Booth’s graduating class created a new monthly giving program that continues beyond graduation. More than a quarter of the class signed up, helping to raise a record total of $104,160. A portion of the gift went toward an endowed scholarship in memory of Mihail Ivanov, AB’09, and a member of the Class of 2014 who died at the start of his second year.

Just as alumni increasingly connected online, social media also helped to connect donors in the spirit of giving.

Alumni took to Twitter when the College joined organizations nationwide in participating in #givingtuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The enthusiastic response from the College community to this first-time effort raised $49,000.

In the spring, the Primary Text Showdown was launched, and donors were asked to vote online to select the most transformative book of the Core. As part of this campaign, University trustee John (AB’89, MBA’94, PhD’95) and Serena Liew (LAB’85, AB’89), and Frank Baker, AB’94, offered a challenge in celebration of their 20th and 25th College reunions, bringing in a record number of donors in one week: 1,208 alumni who gave a total of $135,978. Donors gave to 82 different areas, with the College Fund and Odyssey the most popular choices. A copy of the winning book—Homer’s Odyssey—was given to each member of the Class of 2018 when they arrived on campus in September.

Throughout their challenge, Baker and John Liew sent email appeals, and alumni encouraged each other to get involved and get others involved via Twitter and other platforms. A final interclass challenge, drawing on both social media and old-fashioned person-to-person social networks through volunteers, resulted in 378 gifts.

Chicago Booth held a giving day of its own on June 11, 2014, setting a record of 472 gifts received in a single day. Thanks to matching gifts from Mike Herman, MBA’64, and Angela Blatteis, MBA’86, Chicago Booth alumni and friends raised a total of $111,572 for the day.

In addition to tweets and Facebook badges, alumni could show their support of the UChicago community by more analog means, as the College also brought back its popular “socks campaign.” Nearly 1,100 alumni donors made contributions during the campaign and received a pair of maroon scholar socks—embroidered with the names of pillars of the Core: Kant, Plato, Smith, and Hobbes.