Alumni Relations and Development

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Across all measures, philanthropy and engagement increased in fiscal year 2012—reflecting the deep commitment of alumni and friends who believe in the University of Chicago and its mission.

Giving Grows

Annual fundraising progress surpassed $300 million for the fifth time in the University’s history, ending at $309.7 million—a 2 percent increase over fiscal year 2011. The University received $115.6 million in new principal gifts ($5 million or more), up 17 percent from the previous year. Across the University, principal gifts supported key initiatives (see “Giving Highlights” sidebar). Gifts from members of the Chicago Society—alumni, parents, and friends who have made aggregate gifts of $2,500 or more to UChicago during the previous fiscal year—amounted to $125.7 million, or 49 percent of all cash gifts to the University.

In all, 53,968 donors—51,603 individuals and 2,365 organizations—made gifts to the University, representing a 4.7 percent increase over last year. Many areas benefited from this upward trend; the number of individual donors to the Urban Education Institute, for example, increased by 29.4 percent. The College saw a 12 percent increase in individual donors, a boost that helped attain a 40 percent College alumni participation goal (see “Strength in Numbers”).

Meanwhile the groundbreaking Odyssey Scholarship program entered its fifth year. Drawing some of the nation’s most promising students to campus, Odyssey scholarships eliminate or reduce loans for UChicago undergraduates from low- or moderate-income families. The program started in May 2007 with a $100 million gift from an anonymous alumnus, dubbed Homer, and a challenge: The donor would fund the full annual cost of the scholarships until 2023—if University alumni, parents, and friends created a $150 million endowment to keep the awards going in perpetuity. As of August 2012, 5,410 donors have supported the challenge, and the endowment has now reached more than $59 million, well on its way to the 2023 goal.

In addition to named Odyssey scholarships, the University has received thousands of smaller gifts from alumni and current students designated for the Odyssey program. Pooled together in the Alumni Odyssey Scholarship Fund, these gifts and the trustee match now amount to more than $9 million.

In another example of alumni joining together in support of the University, the Chicago Booth Class of 1987 set a 25-year reunion attendance record, with a 46 percent increase over the previous record. With 146 donors, the class also had raised $509,330 as of September 6, 2012—another 25-year reunion record—and extended their campaign to the end of December with the goal of raising $750,000.

Engaging Alumni—On and beyond the Quads

As the University continues to expand and deepen engagement opportunities, alumni and friends have responded enthusiastically, volunteering on behalf of UChicago and attending a wide variety of events held in locations throughout the world.

Conversations with the President

To bring alumni, parents, and friends up to date on the University’s role in a changing world, this spring President Robert J. Zimmer visited eight cities on three continents. The series began with a March 12 talk in San Francisco and ended May 17 in New York City. Similar programs were held in Beijing, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, attracting some 1,600 participants. In each city, President Zimmer shared a set of strategic initiatives aimed at ensuring UChicago’s position as one of the world’s preeminent research universities. Designed to encourage bold and innovative ventures, to protect and invest in the University’s most distinguished programs, and to enhance its cultural and intellectual capital, the initiatives developed from a planning and priority-setting process begun by the Board of Trustees in 2006. Examples include the Institute for Molecular Engineering, the Urban Education Institute, and Career Advancement’s UChicago Careers In programs for College students.

Deep-Rooted Philanthropy

In November, the University honored its philanthropic partners at Chicago Convenes 2011, reinstituting an event last held in 2008. The celebration recognized members of the Harper Society, the University’s most generous supporters, and began with an afternoon panel, “New Frontiers at the University of Chicago,” moderated by Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum and featuring four UChicago faculty.

The evening celebration in Rockefeller Chapel included the awarding of the University of Chicago Medal to Joan and Robert Feitler, benefactors with deep University roots. University President John T. Wilson established the medal in 1976 to recognize extended and distinguished service to the University. A trustee emeritus of the University and life trustee at the University of Chicago Medical Center, Robert Feitler, Lab’45, X’50, chairs the Smart Museum of Art board and has held leadership roles on the visiting committees for the Laboratory Schools and the Departments of Visual Arts and Art History. A former chair of the Women’s Board, Joan Feitler, AM’55, sits on the Court Theatre board and on the Divinity School, Art History, and Social Sciences visiting committees.

Alumni in Action

Throughout the year, the Alumni Association–sponsored Harper Lecture series highlighted the work of UChicago faculty; the 28 domestic and eight international Harper Lectures attracted more than 2,000 alumni. Lecture topics ranged from science research in Antarctica to the Roman Stoics’ pursuit of happiness to urban school reform.

With 31 international clubs on six continents, the Alumni Association worked to expand its global network. One key initiative, the Send-Off receptions, generated a 50 percent increase in attendance. These receptions offered international College and graduate students preparing for their first year at UChicago an opportunity to meet each other and alumni. Send-Off programs also took place in 44 U.S. cities, with 2,000 registrants, more than double the year before.

Alumni-to-alumni programming continued to grow. Four new Chicago Affinity Groups, which offer alumni a way to engage with each other around shared interests, were launched: the Military Affinity Group, Christian Affinity Group, Latino Alumni Group, and Public Interest Networking Group. LGBT Alumni launched an annual fundraising campaign to benefit the entire Affinity Group program, exceeding their $25,000 goal by $5,000.

Increasing numbers of alumni supported their alma mater through volunteerism, with 8,954 alumni giving their time. Alumni hosted events like book club meetings and museum tours, nominated candidates for alumni awards, and served on committees across the University—just a few of their many contributions.

The year also saw the debut of the UChicago Community online. Designed to foster relationships among alumni while increasing engagement with UChicago, each online group has its own customized website. Four groups—LGBT Alumni Network, Alumni Club of Washington, DC, Alumni Club of the United Kingdom, and the Alumni Board of Governors—comprising nearly 10,000 alumni already have their own sites, with eight clubs in the queue.

Many alumni seized the opportunity for face-to-face interaction during Alumni Weekend 2012, which attracted 5,581 alumni from multiple divisions. Highlights included tours of the new Logan Center for the Arts, International House’s 80th anniversary events, and the dedication of the Arley D. Cathey Learning Center (see “Giving Highlights”).

Strength in Numbers

College alumni made contributions to programs across the University of Chicago in record numbers, bringing 2012’s College alumni participation rate up to 40 percent. Placing the University among leading institutions in the rate of alumni giving, the increase—generated by gifts from both new and returning donors—sends a strong statement that College alumni are invested in the University and its values.

Two successful Trustee Challenges were pivotal in achieving the goal. In the first three-month challenge, the trustees pledged to give $500,000 if 5,000 College alums made gifts by Alumni Weekend. With that milestone reached, the trustees came in with a second challenge—another $500,000 for 2,000 donors by June 30.

In attaining the 40 percent participation goal, giving among members of the Classes of 2002–11 reached a historic high of 3,401 donors, a 19 percent increase over last year’s record.

Two other milestones were made possible by a community of givers following in UChicago’s philanthropic tradition: The College Class of 2012 made a record-setting gift and the Odyssey Scholarship program celebrated its five-year anniversary.