Performance launches $1B fundraiser
An evening of musical entertainment at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark Wednesday brought the University's large-scale fundraiser into public light.
"Our Rutgers, Our Future: A Campaign for Excellence" is a $1 billion campaign focused on meeting the University's most pressing academic and financial needs, said Greg Trevor, senior director of University Media Relations.
More than 300 Mason Gross School of the Arts performers entertained top donors to the University throughout the night.
"[The students] did such an incredible job … and it was just a very special evening," said Bryan O'Leary, director of Campaign Communications and Creative Services for the Rutgers University Foundation. "It really framed for all the University community, as well as the greater public, the importance of this campaign and why it's important for us."
Guests were treated to a concert where members of the Kirkpatrick Choir, University Choir, Voorhees Choir and the University's Glee Club sang songs from Carmina Burana as well as the Alma Mater, arranged by Mason Gross graduate student Michael Lucas Strother.
The Rutgers University Orchestra, conducted by Associate Professor Kynan Johns, accompanied the joint choir.
Nicole Renna, vice president of Kirkpatrick Choir, said the event did not seem like much of a big deal until the choir sang the Alma Mater.
"We started seeing all the donors slowly stand up to sing the song with us, and I think that was a really powerful moment," said Renna, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior. "That made me realize just how important it was that we were there singing."
Renna said she felt as though she was taking part in something bigger than herself.
"It's easy to get caught up in your studies and school, but then you realize that we're all in this together and we're all Rutgers University," she said.
Likewise, President of Kirkpatrick choir Colleen Martin said it felt gratifying that the choirs were chosen to represent the University and what it has to offer.
"It puts the feeling of family that these people are maybe well into their '50s and '60s, and they still feel a connection when hearing our Alma Mater," said Martin, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior.
University President Richard L. McCormick, who was present that evening, said the launch of the campaign comes at an important moment for the University.
"We are laying the foundation for a bold future for this University," McCormick said. "In an environment of declining public support for higher education, private giving makes this future possible."
Gov. Chris Christie also attended the event.
The Rutgers University Foundation initiated the quiet phase of the fundraiser in the summer of 2007, Trevor said.
"Over the past three years, the foundation set a new record for fundraising at Rutgers — despite the worldwide economic downturn," he said.
A total of $472 million has been raised so far, which accounts for nearly half of the University's goal, Trevor said. The foundation received gifts from more than 76,000 donors. Of that amount, 25,000 donated to the University for the first time.
Funds from the campaign have already created 382 new scholarships, providing support to hundred of undergraduates, Trevor said. Twelve new endowed chairs in 10 fields of study were established.
"[The campaign is] very focused on taking control of our future," O'Leary said. "Fundraising is going to be a very important part of that, for scholarships for students, to get endowments for our faculty."
Of the University's 244-year history, this initiative marks the most ambitious and comprehensive fundraising campaign, Trevor said. Ninety percent of funding will go to supporting academics and student services.
The campaign aims to distribute 40 percent of that amount to faculty and research while 25 percent will go to students and learning, Trevor said. Campuses and facilities as well as University and community programs will each receive 15 percent respectively.
Five percent will be designated for other University initiatives.
Specific projects the University will strive toward include redeveloping the Livingston campus and doubling the amount of endowed chairs to attract and retain a world-class faculty, Trevor said.
Based on the current success of the fundraiser, O'Leary feels all is going well so far.
"This [fundraiser] is a very crucial thing for us and we've got great momentum," O'Leary said.