Going Places

The Columbia Campaign sets an Ivy League record, allowing the University to break new ground.

Published Spring 2014
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Donors have funded 265 new endowed professorships over the course of the Columbia Campaign. The recipients include Lydia Liu, the Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Michael B. Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School; and Vishaan Chakrabarti, the Marc Holliday Professor of Real Estate Development at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. / Photographs from left to right by Jill Levine, Erica Martin, and Bob HandelmanThe plans that Bollinger developed, in partnership with the University Trustees, deans, and faculty, would require a massive fundraising effort to renew the strength of the faculty, to support students, and to construct new buildings — including at the University’s new seventeen-acre campus in an old manufacturing zone of West Harlem called Manhattanville. Those who worked closely with Bollinger at the time say he possessed an intuitive knack for persuading others that Columbia’s intellectual strengths could be harnessed for large-scale, University-wide initiatives aimed at addressing the most complex problems facing society. Among the lead fundraising priorities, for instance, was constructing a home for what would become known as the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, where neuroscientists, engineers, physicists, chemists, biologists, psychiatrists, and others were investigating how the electrochemical pulses between the neurons in our brains give rise to thoughts, memories, and emotions — and can sometimes go haywire, leading to conditions like schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.

“Lee is among the greatest of Columbia’s presidents, along with Seth Low and Nicholas Murray Butler, in that he has a long-term vision for Columbia and the management and leadership skills to actualize it,” says Richard E. Witten ’75CC, a Trustee emeritus who, as chair of the board’s alumni and development committee from 2001 to 2012, played a key role in the campaign. “Part of his vision, clearly, is that a large research university should bring together people from lots of different fields to address the most pressing issues of our time, whether that involves climate change, brain science, or personalized medicine. Lee describes these projects to people in a way that is inspiring. They want to be a part of this mission, to contribute to it.”

Over the next several years, some 200,000 alumni, parents, and friends of the University donated to the Columbia Campaign. Several of the gifts came from well-known philanthropists whose donations to Columbia were among their most generous. The family foundation of Dawn M. Greene, who died in 2010, gave Columbia $250 million for the Zuckerman Institute’s home; this nine-story glass tower, named for Dawn’s late husband, Jerome L. Greene, is now being constructed on the Manhattanville campus. Mortimer B. Zuckerman gave $200 million to support the institute that now bears his name. The late John W. Kluge ’37CC, ’88HON gave Columbia $400 million for financial aid, the largest gift ever in higher education solely for that purpose. Henry R. Kravis ’69BUS and Ronald O. Perelman each gave the University $100 million to construct a new home for the business school in Manhattanville. And Gerry Lenfest ’58LAW, ’09HON contributed more than $150 million, including $30 million for a new arts center in Manhattanville and $60 million for endowed professorships in the Arts and Sciences, the law school, and the Earth Institute.

The campaign was truly a University-wide affair, with approximately one-third of the total $6.1 billion raised going toward the Columbia University Medical Center. Among the key contributors to the CUMC drive were P. Roy Vagelos ’54PS and his wife, Diana Vagelos ’55BC, whose gifts included $50 million for a new Medical and Graduate Education Building that is now being built on Haven Avenue in Washington Heights.

The spirited drive to connect the right donor to the right giving opportunity was propelled by alumni volunteers, who spent countless hours identifying potential donors, paying visits to fellow alumni to inquire if they were willing to support particular University programs, and working with Columbia staff on the campaign’s overall strategy. These efforts started with the Columbia Trustees themselves. “The members of this board recognized, early on, that nobody in the world had greater aspirations for Columbia than did Lee Bollinger,” says William V. Campbell ’62CC‚ ’64TC, who, as chair of the Trustees, worked closely with Bollinger, Feagin, and Van Sickle on the fundraising trail. “We were right there with him. This was a board that got their fingernails dirty. We worked like hell for this.”

Bollinger’s plans would require a massive fundraising effort to renew the strength of the faculty, to support students, and to construct new buildings.

The success of the campaign depended not only on big gifts. It also required building a broad base of support: in total, nearly 693,000 donations came in from alumni, parents, students, and friends — including many from patients of the Columbia University Medical Center and their families. This spirit of participation was on full display when, on October 23, 2013, nearly ten thousand donors from all fifty states and fifty-three countries contributed on the second annual Columbia Giving Day, a twenty-four-hour online fund drive that raised $7.8 million. These contributions went into the annual funds of Columbia’s various colleges and schools. The annual funds are crucial for supporting financial aid, student services, salaries, and other operating expenses, whether or not the University is in the midst of a campaign.

“The measure of a campaign’s success isn’t merely the amount of money you’ve raised,” says Donna MacPhee ’89CC, the University’s vice president for alumni relations. “It’s also about how well you’ve energized your alumni, connecting them to each other and ensuring their lifelong role in the University community. In this sense, too, the Columbia Campaign was a huge success.”

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