Meliora Challenge fundraising on target to meet goal

Robin Wang, Staff Photographer

This year’s Meliora Weekend marked the one year anniversary of UR President Joel Seligman’s public unveiling of The Meliora Challenge — the most comprehensive campaign ever conducted by the University.

The campaign, which began when Seligman assumed his current position in July 2005, aims to raise an ambitious $1.2 billion by June 30, 2016, which will ultimately be split between five categories: faculty, students, programs, the annual fund and facilities. Between its kickoff and this past Meliora weekend, $86 million has been raised.

The campaign goals are also categorized by the principles of UR’s new mission statement — learn, discover, heal and create — which was also introduced at Meliora Weekend in 2011. Senior Associate Vice President for Advancement Jonathan Schwartz explained that campaign organizers recognized an opportunity in this  timing.

“Last year the kick off provided a great way to arrange the themes of the campaign,” he said.

Campaign goals for the “learning” aspect of the mission statement include growing UR’s endowment and scholarships, expanding the Warner School of Education by creating the new Raymond F. LeChase Hall, increasing digital library resources and renovating UR’s athletic facilities.

In terms of “discover,” campaign funds will be used to endow 80 new professorships, establish a Center for Energy Research and Education, support research in the emerging field of “big data” and improve the Centers of Excellence at the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration.

The University will strive to continue “healing” by donating money toward expanding the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center,  research efforts in cardiology and neuromedicine and making Golisano Children’s Hospital an independent facility.

The tenet “create” will include funding the new Center for Music Innovation, a sculpture park at the Memorial Art Gallery, the new Ronald Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation, greater collaboration between faculty and corporate leaders and initiatives to better connect the art department with other UR departments.

Although this large-scale campaign only debuted to the public last fall, its overall timeline has been much longer term. The initiative for the campaign was originally driven by the Board of Trustees, who felt that the University needed to expand its focus on external relations. Consequently, the Board recruited Seligman and worked together to identify potential projects.

Seligman shared the trustees’ goal to expand external relations.

“My first message to our community was my commitment to the campaign for Rochester,” Seligman said. “I am committed to galvanizing resources to provide more support for our students and faculty, strengthening our curriculum and patient care and providing facilities consistent with a great research university in the 21st century.”

After much research and investigation, the campaign’s private, or nucleus, phase began, during which campaign proponents reached out to engage UR’s closest allies and donors.

Schwartz explained that this stage was important because “what [these donors] are able to contribute establishes momentum and the scope of the goal.” It also “gives them the opportunity to provide leadership in respective areas,” he said.

Other initiatives were forged throughout the nucleus phase as well, including enlisting volunteer groups, engaging the George Eastman Circle and creating a national council as an advisory board to act as a sounding board for campaign ideas.

Once roughly half of the fundraising goal, $759 million, was reached, the campaign transitioned to its public phase at a dinner reception for donors as well as a celebratory gathering for the entirety of the UR community during Meliora Weekend 2011.

Fundraising in the public phase has a much “higher volume of solicitation,” Schwartz said. He has helped to employ strategies such as mailings, phone calls and event invitations in a “large volume effort.”

Another notable strategy developed in this phase has been to bring fundraising to alumni throughout the country by having faculty and students travel to present the campaign in target cities nationwide.

These efforts have fueled the campaign’s momentum.

“We remain well ahead of the pace to reach our goal,” Seligman said. “This past Meliora Weekend was the latest evidence of our alumni’s support for students and faculty. I am very optimistic that the Meliora Challenge will succeed.”

Fagan is a member of the class of 2014.



You can contact Abigail at afagan3@u.rochester.edu.

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