How UVA’s Honor the Future Campaign Helps Turn Ambitions Into Reality

September 12, 2022 By Charity Boudouris, Charity Boudouris,

Private philanthropy has played a key role in supporting the University of Virginia’s strategic plan. Its goal – to make UVA the best public university by 2030 and one of the best universities anywhere, public or private – requires substantial resources to enable ambitions to become reality.

The $5 billion Honor the Future campaign, publicly announced in 2019 under President Jim Ryan’s direction, has since generated extraordinary support for the initiatives and goals in “Great and Good: The 2030 Plan,” raising nearly $4.3 billion in private philanthropy to date.

This is the most significant philanthropic success in the University’s history.

“Through the Honor the Future campaign, generous commitments from our community are advancing the 2030 strategic plan, and helping us continue our academic and health care missions,” Ryan said. “The University’s fundraising successes indicate a high level of commitment and devotion among our community that is essential to making our goals a reality. I’m incredibly grateful for the investment in UVA’s future.”

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Aerial photo of the Lawn and Rotunda in summer.
UVA’s Honor the Future campaign has raised more than $4 billion to date, fueling student scholarships, endowed faculty positions, facilities and many other priorities of the University strategic plan. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

The campaign has enhanced UVA’s vibrant community, its culture of service, and the collaborative curiosity of its faculty and students. From hundreds of endowed scholarships and professorships to a new School of Data Science; from an institute for the study of democracy to promising research in specific diseases; the campaign gives essential momentum to the University’s strategic ambitions.

One of the campaign’s signature achievements is the creation of endowed scholarships and professorships. The Bicentennial Scholars program paired donor contributions with institutional matching funds to establish more than 500 endowed scholarship funds for undergraduate and graduate students.

In one of many remarkable examples, David and the late Jane Walentas donated $100 million to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, $50 million of which has created the Walentas Scholars Program for first generation students and $25 million of which will support Walentas Fellows who will be first generation Darden students. The remaining $25 million will complete the funding for JSF Darden Fellowships and establish three distinguished professorships. David Walentas, one of the nation’s most successful self-made entrepreneurs, is a 1961 undergraduate alumnus of UVA and a 1964 graduate of its Darden School of Business. He was the first in his family to attend college.

Students walking on Grounds on the first day of classes.
(Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

Additional endowed scholarships include those for students transferring from Piedmont Virginia Community College, those from underserved and underrepresented communities, students from Southwest Virginia, and those from middle-income families.

Groups of alumni and friends combined their philanthropy to create scholarships for medical students from diverse backgrounds, graduate students pursuing public service in the School of Law, and future educators studying at the School of Education and Human Development. University leaders said all these philanthropic efforts – and hundreds more – help UVA recruit the very best students from all walks of life, regardless of their financial means.

Similarly, the Bicentennial Professorships program has raised more than $420 million in gifts and matching funds. It includes inaugural University Professorships, funded by a gift from the family of Thomas A. Saunders III to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, to attract and retain internationally recognized faculty in science and medicine.

“The opportunities for future generations of students and faculty at UVA have increased exponentially, thanks to the generosity of our steadfast supporters and engaged community,” Honor the Future Campaign Chair Peter Grant said. “The Honor the Future campaign has laid a strong foundation for the strategic plan initiatives and will sustain the future of this University for years to come.”

‘Great and Good’

The John L. Nau III Foundation, continuing its generous support of the University, made gifts to support teaching and learning in the field of democracy. Nau fellowships, internships and professorships in the College of Arts & Sciences will attract top faculty, further growing UVA’s reputation for excellence in the study of American history and democracy.

Key to that reputation is the Karsh Institute of Democracy, a nonpartisan, interdisciplinary institute that will synthesize and accelerate UVA’s existing expertise. Building on a $50 million lead gift from Bruce and Martha Karsh, the institute will highlight the critical role of higher education in preserving and strengthening democracy, and positions the University as a national and international leader in this critical area of study.

The Honor the Future campaign includes priorities for research in the sciences and medicine.

The Harrison Family Foundation’s gift to UVA Health and the School of Medicine for the UVA Brain Institute’s new Virginia Alzheimer’s Disease Center Data Commons will enable the sharing of data among UVA researchers in multiple disciplines. This initiative offers extraordinary potential for advances in the search for treatments of Alzheimer’s.

Aerial photo of UVA Health System.
Generous donors have provided gifts in support of health and medical priorities, from promising cancer research to brain-related initiatives to addressing the national nursing shortage. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

Donors to Honor the Future also have made inspiring commitments to the UVA Cancer Center, creating the Translational Orphan Blood Cancer Research Initiative Fund. The Manning Family Foundation’s generosity includes support for research in autoimmune Type 1 diabetes and scientific exploration of the pathogenesis of infectious diseases.

Gifts from Joanne and Bill Conway to the School of Nursing will expand enrollment and help address workforce shortages nationally. The Conways have given nearly $50 million to support nursing at UVA, including a gift announced this month that will, among other benefits, provide at least 175 need- and eligibility-based scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students.

Elsewhere, an alumnus who majored in environmental sciences created a fund for research into the marine environment, which will attract further funding from foundations keen to support solutions to the challenges of a warming climate.

The momentum created by UVA’s strategic plan also drove philanthropic gifts to create courses focused on economic solutions for Appalachia, support an ongoing cohort of exceptional students with financial need studying engineering, and foster interdisciplinary research in cybersecurity.

A crowd watches as the last beam of the Alderman construction project is raised.
Philanthropy provides critical support to key capital projects across Grounds, including the major renovation to Alderman Library, shown here. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Service is core to the UVA educational experience. Campaign donors created fellowships at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and at the School of Law to support students committed to careers in public service.

When public-sector internships vanished in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, philanthropy made possible the 22nd Century Scholars initiative, a virtual internship program launched by the Center for Politics. The paid internships, funded entirely by private donations, placed more than 50 undergraduates on virtual projects at the Center for Politics, the Miller Center for Public Affairs, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, the Batten School and the UVA Democracy Initiative’s Deliberative Media Lab.

UVA’s culture of service is epitomized by the Humayun Kahn Memorial Scholarship, created as one of the campaign’s Bicentennial Scholarships. U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Kahn, a 2000 graduate of the University’s ROTC program, was killed in Iraq while protecting the hundreds of people in his compound. The scholarship’s first recipient, Eric Jang, will graduate in 2023 and plans to enlist in the Marine Corps.

To be great and good in all we do. Find out more.
To be great and good in all we do. Find out more.

Finally, the Honor the Future campaign addresses capital projects that will enable the University to provide superior facilities in academics, medicine, the arts and athletics. They include the first complete overhaul of Alderman Library; a new performing arts center; a state-of-the-art facility for student health and wellness; new academic facilities for both the McIntire School of Commerce and the Darden School; expansion of the Athletics Precinct, with new buildings to support both football and student-athletes in the Olympic sports; and centers for contemplative sciences, the Karsh Institute, and the University’s newest school, the School of Data Science.

Private philanthropy through the Honor the Future campaign was also critical to the completion of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, a physical tribute originally requested by students to honor those who helped build and maintain the University in its earliest years.

Currently at approximately $4.3 billion, the campaign is closing in on its $5 billion goal, with three years left to go. In fact, the pace of fundraising has nearly doubled in the past five years, from approximately $325 million per year to more than $600 million, according to the UVA Office of Advancement.

“The generosity of those who support the University of Virginia continues to humble and inspire all of us,” Vice President for Advancement Mark Luellen said. “These gifts – of all sizes –combine to create life-changing opportunities for students, faculty, staff, the community and so many others. We are beyond grateful.”

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