University prepares for major capital campaign
Nassau Hall plans to launch what may be a multi-billion dollar fundraising campaign in coming years to support top University objectives like the four-year residential colleges, expanded performing and creative arts programs and increased financial aid, several people familiar with the plan said in recent days.
A likely goal for the campaign will be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, these people said, though they cautioned that the figure may change because plans are tentative.
One person familiar with the details of the campaign noted that several top campaign officials have been chosen and that some initial donation pledges have already been made.
"During the quiet phase" — the period before the official launch of a campaign — "you give people a heads up that this is coming down the pipeline," another individual said. "You want to make sure that the big donors know ... and you want the good news to come early," the individual added, referring to the fact that pledges will likely be announced early on in the public stages of the campaign.
Though Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee '69 declined to comment on the target figure, he acknowledged that the University is in the planning stages of the campaign. "We have been looking at all these things for some time now," he said in an interview Thursday, noting that conversations began shortly after President Tilghman assumed office. He did not say when the campaign would be formally launched.
"I would guess that they would put a number that they would go after and hopefully beat it," said Paul Wythes '55, a former vice-chair of the University Board of Trustees who has overseen multiple Princeton campaigns. "You don't want to come up short. Princeton's never come up short."
Though news of a capital campaign to bolster the University's $11.2 billion endowment is unsurprising — University presidents often embark on a major fundraising campaign approximately halfway through their tenures — a campaign is significant because it provides the opportunity for Tilghman to formally articulate her vision and priorities for Princeton's future.
"The president is the key person in determining that vision, in articulating that vision, but [she doesn't] do that alone," Durkee said, noting that there have been ongoing informal conversations with alumni, faculty and students.
Durkee said it should come as "no surprise" that those conversations have included issues like expanding opportunities in the creative and performing arts at Princeton. Bolstering financial aid, certain academic departments, the engineering school and the residential colleges are likely other priorities for the campaign, Durkee and others said.
Princeton's campaign would be one of 25 other current college campaigns seeking to raise over $1 billion, according to data from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Seven of those schools are seeking over $2 billion, including the University of Virginia, which is seeking the most at $3 billion for a campaign that began this year and will end in 2011.
The University's last campaign, launched in 1996 in commemoration of Princeton's 250th anniversary and concluded in 2000, raised $1.14 billion. Its initial goal was $750 million.
All of Princeton's campaigns occur over a period of five years to coincide with a major reunion for each alumni class, which occur once every five years. Such reunions are traditionally a time for increased donations.
Harvard, which is currently in the "quiet phase" of its own capital campaign, has not set a target figure, though observers expect it to be in the multi-billion dollar range. Its last capital campaign, which concluded in 1999, raised $2.6 billion.
Other Ivies currently undertaking campaigns include Brown, which is seeking $1.4 billion, and Columbia, which hopes for $2.2 billion. Stanford recently surpassed its $1 billion goal ending this year, and the University of California at Los Angeles also surpassed its $2.5 billion goal, raising $2.9 billion.
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