'Cornell Now!' campaign tops $4 billion

Cornell has surpassed an important fundraising-campaign milestone – $4 billion – making it only the fourth institution in all of higher education to have accomplished such a feat.

Since its public launch in 2006, “Cornell Now!” has raised $4.03 billion toward its goal of $4.75 billion by 2015, Cornell’s sesquicentennial.

“Beginning with Ezra Cornell’s founding gift in 1865, philanthropy has been the bedrock of the university, and gifts of all amounts continue to sustain and advance every part of this university’s mission,” said President David J. Skorton.

He added, “We have gathered tremendous momentum to reach this $4 billion milestone, and we are moving onward to meet – if not exceed – our target goal for ‘Cornell Now’ by 2015.”

The campaign has received 617,618 gifts from 154,751 alumni, parents and friends – ranging from a contribution of a single penny to multimillion-dollar gifts. The funds support both the Ithaca campus and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and includes the medical college’s recently completed $1.3 billion “Discoveries That Make a Difference” campaign.

At the same time, Cornell NYC Tech recently reached a fundraising milestone of its own. “Thanks to a generous gift from Class of ’54 alumni Joan and Irwin Jacobs, announced on Monday, our efforts for the tech campus have crossed the $500 million mark,” said Charles Phlegar, vice president for alumni affairs and development. “Together, these campaigns bring Cornell’s fundraising progress to more than $4.5 billion.”

In addition to supporting the very visible building and future construction of many facilities across the Ithaca campus – the most recent of which are Milstein Hall, Gates Hall, the Law School expansion and the forthcoming Klarman Hall – the “Cornell Now!” campaign has bolstered faculty renewal and led to the establishment, so far, of 92 endowed faculty chairs and professorships, including 41 at Weill Cornell, and recruited 36 sesquicentennial faculty fellows through current-use Faculty Renewal Sesquicentennial Challenge funds.

The centerpiece of Weill Cornell’s “Discoveries” campaign is the 480,000-square-foot Belfer Research Building, supported by $389 million in gifts for building construction and $152 million for program support and faculty endowment and recruitment.

The “Cornell Now!” campaign also has significantly strengthened Cornell’s financial aid and scholarship programs. According to Elmira Mangum, vice president for budget and planning, the university has been able to expand undergraduate financial aid expenditures by 123 percent since 2008 (including an 11 percent increase last year), with $245 million annually used for financial aid, which benefits half of the undergraduate population. “Cornell Now!” has also established 504 new endowed undergraduate scholarships, including Cornell Tradition fellowships. And Weill Cornell raised more than $30 million to support medical student scholarships.

“Giving to scholarships and supporting faculty go hand in hand,” said Lee Melvin, associate vice provost for enrollment. “Scholarships enable us to enroll students with exceptional talent, brilliance and creativity, regardless of their socioeconomic status. At the same time, competitive faculty recruitment provides our students with the opportunity to learn from thought leaders in a variety of disciplines.”

“Cornell Now!” also supports such key universitywide initiatives as international programs, with more than 50 percent of that goal already met, and service learning and public engagement, with almost 75 percent of that target amount raised.

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John Carberry