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U.Va. Development Leader Invites Faculty to Join $3 Billion Campaign

By Matt Kelly

Dec. 8, 2003 — Robert D. Sweeney, the University’s vice president for development and public affairs, came to Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting to offer both an invitation and a challenge.

In the course of 30 minutes, he asked Senate members to become partners in the upcoming capital campaign – aimed at what may be a $3 billion goal — and to help the University set its sights on becoming “one of the most important institutions in American education.”

“The real connection is when we get that prospective donor into a lab, sitting one-on-one with a faculty member, hearing an aspiration for a cure … or a research opportunity that might actually be the creation of knowledge.”

— Robert D. Sweeney
Senior Vice President for Development

It is the faculty, Sweeney said, who best convey the powerful story of the University, its needs and its aspirations. And he urged each of them to build relationships with development officers in their schools, educating them on research and initiatives that deserve support. He also nudged them to begin to think about former students who may want to invest in the University’s future.

“The real connection,” Sweeney said, “is when we get that prospective donor into a lab, sitting one-on-one with a faculty member, hearing an aspiration for a cure … or a research opportunity that might actually be the creation of knowledge.”

Sweeney, a leader in the University’s last campaign, which raised a record $1.43 billion, said the next campaign, due to run from 2006 through 2011, would again set U.Va. apart from its peer public institutions and that it would be among a handful of universities in the country setting such an aggressive goal.

“This is not for the timid,” he warned. “To make the next goal we will have to raise $1,027,397 a day.” For Sweeney and the University, the clock starts ticking on Jan. 1, 2004 with the launch of the campaign’s silent phase, and will not stop until Dec. 31, 2011.

“The time is now,” he said, “and the choice is extraordinarily clear.” Without this effort, Sweeney believes, the University would be in danger of falling from its current national prominence to become merely an important regional institution.

Ten to 15 percent of the campaign will be aimed at pan-University needs, including graduate training and fellowships, undergraduate research, science and technology, and the arts. The University also will seek support to attract and retain stellar faculty.

Sweeney predicts that the strong University performers from the last campaign, such as the Law and Darden schools and Athletics, will again fare well, but other schools, such as Curry, Engineering and the College, also will be major players.

To achieve success, Sweeney said U.Va. will have to create a private philanthropy model that looks more like those at Stanford, Duke, MIT and the Ivy Leagues, than at other public universities.

“U.Va. already has reached the elite rankings in its funding program, landing in the highest tiers among publics, and ranking between No. 8 and No. 12 among the top 15 privates,” Sweeney said. “We have managed to do in 15 years what many schools have taken a century to accomplish.

“We are now in the game among the most important American institutions of the next generation. The question is: Do we have a program that can change the course of public education?”

Sweeney reminded faculty members that money is not the only focus of the campaign – it is the transformation of the University that the fund raising will help support. “If we simply look at the numbers in this next campaign, I believe that we have failed,” he said. “Our work together is … really about creating a new University of Virginia. And that means that the new University of Virginia will be a new model for American education.”

Some faculty expressed concern that donors would seek to dictate key programmatic and policy decisions. University President John T. Casteen III assured them this was an issue that often was discussed and that the administration was sensitive to such concerns.

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