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To $750 million and beyond: Capital campaign surpasses goal

In the fall of 1995, the University began what would become the largest, most successful fund-raising campaign in its history.

In interviews just a few weeks before the end of the campaign, President Shapiro and other members of the administration reflected on their efforts — five years and almost $1 billion later.


The Anniversary Campaign for Princeton began with a target of $750 million.

"But then the campaign went extremely well," Shapiro said, "and we were very anxious, for example, to take on some new initiatives in financial aid."

As a result, the University decided to raise the target to $1 billion. Shapiro identified three main reasons for the increase: offering more financial aid, accelerating the dormitory-renovation program and increasing the number of academic initiatives the University could launch.

Shapiro said the booming U.S. economy has played a large part in the campaign's success. "Obviously when times are good, people have greater capacity, so we certainly benefit from the fact the economy has done so well," he said.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Richard Spies GS '72 said the growth of the endowment through the campaign would prepare the University to "take on new challenges," such as the Frist Campus Center or the genomics institute.

While those buildings were gifts of the Frist family and of Peter Lewis '55, respectively, the facilities' operating costs will be funded through the endowment, Spies explained.


Some gifts have been in the "tens of millions of dollars," Shapiro said, but he quickly pointed out that the size of a gift does not matter.

"[The donations] go all the way down to $50, or perhaps even less," Shapiro said. "For some people $50 is as difficult to give as for another person to give a thousand."

Vice President and Secretary Thomas Wright '62 illustrated what it is like to approach alumni and ask, literally, for $40 million.

"One, it's not for me," he said with a laugh. "It's for the University, which is something that's a lot bigger than any one person and involves a lot of good causes."

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Spies explained how the University justifies asking donors for money when it is already sitting on a more than $7-billion endowment.

"I get that question all the time," he said. " 'Why should I give money to Princeton when you have more endowment per student than anybody, when you have resources that most schools can't even dream about, and there are other schools, other kinds of organizations that are much more needy?' "

But Spies has ready-made answers for such difficult questions. "I think you're investing in the quality of the place," he said. "You're investing in the quality of the people who come here who will, as they go on to the next stages in their lives, have an unusual effect, a disproportionate effect, because of the qualities they have in themselves, but also because of the education they got here."