September 14, 2009 — Despite the challenges of raising funds in the country's deepest recession since the 1930s, the University of Virginia has reached the $2 billion mark in its $3 billion fundraising campaign.
"This campaign was noteworthy from the beginning," said University President John T. Casteen III in announcing the milestone. "When we announced our $3 billion goal, it was the most ambitious campaign in the country – public or private. No one would have thought twice if Harvard or Yale or Columbia had announced a $3 billion campaign, but I imagine that many were surprised to learn that U.Va. had set such a bold target."
Budget cuts announced on Sept. 8 by Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine underscored the necessity of private support for the University, Casteen added. The University's state funding will be reduced by another $19.3 million – bringing total state cuts to $51.5 million over the past three years.
When Casteen became president in 1990, state revenues made up 29.9 percent of the academic division budget and 22.9 percent of the University's total budget. Today, state funds have dropped to 10 percent of the academic budget and 6 percent overall.
The University's achievement in reaching this point reflects the loyalty, generosity and tenacity of the University's alumni, parents and friends, said Gordon F. Rainey Jr., chairman of the Campaign for the University of Virginia and a former rector of the University. "Eighteen months ago – prior to the dramatic economic downturn – we projected that we would be at $2 billion by the end of June 2009," he said. "To have achieved our $2 billion interim goal just eight weeks later than originally projected is a remarkable accomplishment."
Donors to the campaign, which was launched in October 2004, have supported professorships, scholarships, graduate fellowships, research and academic programs and buildings. "Their gifts have touched all 11 schools, the University Library, athletics, the Health System, the College at Wise, and a wide variety of centers and institutes," Casteen said. "This extraordinary generosity has transformed not only the University's Grounds but also the academic enterprise."
Despite the economy, he added, the University is creating adequate space for new classrooms to accommodate the 2,920 students who have been added without the state's paying its share of the cost of their education since 1990. "We are also constructing new research laboratories to house the work that will restore the economy, as new products and processes are found and industry adopts them," the president said.
The first phase of the campaign included an unprecedented $100 million gift from Frank Batten Sr., a 1950 graduate of U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences, who died on Thursday. Batten's generosity and vision resulted in the creation the University's first new school in more than 50 years – the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
In the final phase of the campaign, Casteen said, the focus will be on building adequate funding for a number of things that today's students need – strong academic programs, cutting-edge research and financial aid. Earlier this week, Casteen launched a fundraising initiative to bolster support for AccessUVa, the University's successful financial aid program.
"Our students, our alumni and the University's friends did not cause the multiple crises that the republic, our state and the University now face," Casteen said. "But today's news is that, in this campaign, they are doing their share and more to build solutions here, at home, where we prepare young people to take responsibility for the future."