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Campain for RIT: Future power

Thousands of generous friends carry RIT’s biggest fundraising effort beyond the $300 million goal

The Sentinel dedication celebration.

The most ambitious fundraising effort in RIT history reached a grand finale on June 30, 2006, with a total of more than $309 million in gifts and commitments.

“This is an awe-inspiring victory,” says President Albert Simone. “Lifting our campaign past its $300 million goal took a Herculean effort on the part of dedicated members of the campus community, unprecedented generosity from a wide range of university partners, and an unwavering commitment as RIT evolves into what we have identified as a ‘Category of One’ university – a standard of comparison to which others aspire.”

“Powered by the Future: The Campaign for RIT” is profoundly impacting the university. The increased resources have built new facilities, created numerous scholarships, funded research, supported faculty endeavors and increased RIT’s endowment.
Certainly one of the most significant impacts of the campaign is the creation of a new “spirit of giving,” says Simone.

Before the campaign began, annual giving averaged $12 million. Over the eight-year campaign period, annual giving jumped to $50 million. During the final year, new gifts and pledges totaled $78.5 million, by far the largest fundraising year in RIT history.

“The whole, large RIT community came together in an unprecedented spirit of caring, spirit of giving, a sense of pride in what we’ve accomplished so far and, more importantly, in what we have the potential to accomplish in the future,” says Lisa Cauda, vice president for Development. “I believe that spirit will be a lasting effect of the campaign, and one we must continue to nurture.”

Toasting RIT’s future at the campaign celebration are, from left, Vice President for Development Lisa Cauda, Campaign Chair William Buckingham ’64, Board of Trustees Chair Michael Morley ’69, and President Albert Simone.

Creating strong bonds
William A. Buckingham ’64 (business), campaign chair and RIT trustee, concurs with Cauda’s assessment.
“The success of this campaign shows that RIT is evolving a giving base that continues to expand,” says Buckingham. “We had more than 100,000 gifts and we had 52 gifts that exceeded $1 million. We have developed stronger bonds with important constituencies who have a real, long-term stake in RIT: alumni, students, parents, corporations, trustees and friends.

“As an alumnus,” he continues, “I believe the value of an RIT degree is rising as the university continues to prosper.”

John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), called the RIT campaign a “significant accomplishment.” CASE is a major international association for development, communications, marketing and alumni relations professionals.

“$300 million is a lot of money by any standard,” says Lippincott. “This puts RIT in a fairly exclusive club.”

Power in tough times
Lippincott says that the past eight years were a “challenging” period for fundraising. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, followed by a significant weakening in the economy, were setbacks that led many institutions to postpone even small efforts. The devastating tsunami in Asia in December 2004, and Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 also had an impact, as donors directed their dollars – at least temporarily – to aid disaster victims.

In fact, the Sept. 11 attacks caused RIT to delay the official campaign kickoff for a year. However, the campaign was already underway. It began in 1998 with the announcement of a $12 million gift from the Gleason Foundation of Rochester. The Gleason Foundation has supported RIT for more than a century, and committed a total of $20 million over the eight years of the campaign.

“This institution has been indispensable in terms of the success of the Rochester community and certainly has been a part of the success of my company, ” says James S. Gleason, RIT trustee and chairman, Gleason Corp.
In recognition of the family’s support, RIT named the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. That became the first of three colleges named during the eight-year campaign.

The dedication of the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.

Help from great friends
In February 2001, the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, RIT’s eighth college, was created by a $14 million gift from B. Thomas Golisano, Paychex Inc. founder and RIT trustee. It has quickly developed into the largest comprehensive college of computing in the nation.

“RIT has a history of identifying and responding to industry needs with top-notch educational programs. RIT graduates have certainly been an asset to Paychex,” says Golisano, who served as honorary chairman of the campaign. “To all of those who gave to RIT, I say thank you for making a terrific investment.”

RIT’s Board of Trustees, which includes 53 active and 29 honorary or emeriti members, became the largest group of campaign supporters, responsible for $95.4 million of the total, including personal and corporate gifts.
CASE president Lippincott says campaigns have positive effects on institutions beyond the obvious benefit of increased financial resources. “The campaign becomes a rallying point for the institution,” he says. “The exercise of going through the process of articulating the vision and giving clear focus to identifying priorities is very healthy.”

President Simone puts it this way:

“Faculty, staff and students, trustees and friends all came together for a common purpose, to make RIT even better, to take RIT to the next level as a university,” he says. “To see that attitude develop and grow has meant even more than money.”

The campaign has ended but the need to support students continues. To make a gift to RIT, go to www.rit.edu/giving, or call the Office of Development at 585-475-5500.