Sesquicentennial propels banner year in giving


In a banner year for fundraising, Cornell University raised $672.9 million in fiscal 2015 that ended June 30, vaulting the Cornell Now campaign above $6 billion and setting new records for dollars raised and participation. Cash giving to the university totaled $590.6 million, surpassing last year’s record $545.4 million.

To date, the campaign, which began in 2006, has raised $4.2 billion for the Ithaca and Cornell Tech campuses and $1.9 billion for Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC). It concludes in December 2015.

Cornell’s Ithaca campus set a new record for cash gifts, raising $441.3 million – up $68.1 million from the previous fiscal year. New gifts and commitments for Ithaca totaled $525 million.

A total of 55,717 individuals, corporations and foundations – the largest number of donors to date – contributed to the Ithaca campus.

And more donors supported Cornell’s Annual Fund than ever before, providing current-use, unrestricted dollars for needs throughout the university. Some 36,368 individuals contributed $39.5 million, setting a new fundraising record for the 13th year in a row.

“I am inspired by the enthusiasm and generosity of the tens of thousands of Cornellians around the world and on every Cornell campus who believe in the work of the university and have stepped forward to show support, especially during our sesquicentennial year,” said President Elizabeth Garrett. “They have my gratitude and appreciation for their confidence in Cornell, and I look forward to charting the next chapter of Cornell’s extraordinary history with their help. Philanthropic gifts play a crucial role in our ability to advance and excel in teaching, research, scholarship, service and creative activity.”

WCMC closed fiscal 2015 with $147.9 million and completed the $300 million Driving Discoveries, Changing Lives campaign in December 2014. In 2014, the medical college launched the $50 million Campaign for Education and the Daedalus Fund for Innovation. With $22 million raised, the Campaign for Education is almost halfway to its goal, and the Daedalus Fund for Innovation – which advances early-stage research projects with commercial potential – has raised $3.6 million.

Notable gifts to WCMC include a $25 million gift from overseer Ira Drukier ’66, M.Eng. ’67, and his wife, Gale, who named the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health. The college also received a significant gift in support of precision medicine.

“Weill Cornell faculty and new recruits are engaged in some of the most cutting-edge research taking place at a medical school anywhere in the country,” said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, WCMC’s Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean. “Thanks to our generous donors, we have come so far in such a short period of time, and we still have a great deal left to accomplish. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Jeffrey McCarthy, interim vice president for alumni affairs and development, noted that gifts to the Ithaca campus have advanced several key university priorities, including hiring and retaining excellent, diverse faculty and supporting undergraduate, graduate and professional students with financial aid, scholarships and fellowships.

For the Ithaca campus, some $156.7 million was raised for students and student programs. Gifts to support financial aid for undergraduate students totaled $42.5 million, a significant boost from 2013 and 2014. Gifts also increased for graduate fellowships and professional school scholarships, totaling $32.4 million. In addition, $363.3 million was raised for faculty and program support, and $67.4 million will support new facilities and upgrades.

McCarthy said a number of factors propelled this year’s growth in giving. “Events celebrating Cornell’s 150th year captured the attention and inspired the enthusiasm of alumni, parents and friends around the world. This year’s giving numbers reflect the tremendous spirit of Cornellians as well as their commitment to and belief in the university’s mission.”

McCarthy also said, “The excitement and enthusiasm for Cornell Tech in New York City has both attracted new gifts to the university and energized giving and participation on the Ithaca campus.” Gifts to Cornell Tech totaled $99.9 million in fiscal 2015.

Annual fund leaders say they continue to develop new and creative ways to increase support for the university. A 24-hour-long “Giving Day” in March helped boost the annual fund and attracted a significant number of first-time donors who had not previously given to Cornell. This initiative raised $6.97 million from 9,683 gifts.

“The level of Big Red enthusiasm surely was at an all-time high, and Cornellians expressed this affection in tangible ways – as active participants, volunteers and donors,” said Jim Mazza ’88, associate vice president of alumni affairs.

In fiscal 2015, gifts from individuals comprised about 84 percent of all contributions to Cornell. More than 48 percent of gifts and commitments were for current use, while 41 percent will be added to the university’s endowment. Eleven percent of new gifts and commitments were designated for facilities.

The largest gifts to Ithaca include a $50 million gift from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust for a new initiative aimed at increasing levels of service-learning and public engagement, and a $50 million gift from Peter ’61 and Nancy ’62 Meinig to name the biomedical engineering school. Cornell Tech received a $100 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help fund the construction of the campus and a $50 million gift from Verizon to Cornell Tech.

“Our giving achievement for this year gives us tremendous momentum as we enter the final months of the campaign,” said McCarthy. “With the arrival of Elizabeth Garrett, our new president, Cornell continues to inspire engagement with the university and great interest in bolstering its future.”

Diane Lebo Wallace is a writer for the divisions of Alumni Affairs and Development and of Student and Campus Life.

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