Eight years ago, fundraising consultants were brought into UNLV to evaluate a proposed goal of $250 million for its first-ever capital campaign. The consultants' report suggested that community support was lacking for such a lofty goal and that the sum was simply too ambitious. Our community leaders believed otherwise.
In response, UNLV launched the Invent the Future campaign with a goal of $500 million, doubling the target initially proposed. With vision and determination - along with an amazing group of donors, alumni, stakeholders, and friends, not to mention volunteers, faculty, staff, and students - UNLV surpassed the goal and successfully concluded the Invent the Future campaign on Dec. 31.
"A half a billion dollar campaign goal was audacious for such a young campus," declares UNLV President Neal Smatresk. "But this community - these individuals, businesses, and foundations - partnered with UNLV, believed in our university, and together we leapt toward a vision for our future that appeared unattainable a decade ago."
UNLV raised $537,201,478 in what is widely considered the worst economic climate of a lifetime.
Priorities for the campaign included broadening alumni support and participation, updating facilities and developing new space, strengthening academic excellence through scholarships, and developing innovative research and educational programs.
Nearly 42 percent of donors to the Invent the Future campaign were alumni -- a huge number for a young university with about 90,000 alumni. Alumni giving not only had a tremendous impact on the bottom line for the campaign, but the numbers will also be used as criteria for national rankings for the university -- a significant element in enhancing UNLV's reputation and the value of students' degrees.
Building an excellent university requires bricks and mortar -- facilities for students and faculty that enhance the educational experience. This campaign added a number of new facilities to the UNLV campus, including Greenspun Hall, the Thomas & Mack Moot Court Complex, and the Science and Engineering Building. It also raised funding for the forthcoming Innovation UNLV, which eventually will include a 330-room hotel and conference center as well as a new academic building for the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.
Many contributions to the campaign focused on the student experience, including funding for undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, career advising, and new or updated facilities for classes and laboratories. Two of the largest scholarship programs at any Nevada institution were announced as part of the Invent the Future campaign. The Engelstad Foundation donated more than $12.6 million to develop the Engelstad Scholars Program (see article page 26). In addition, a $15 million irrevocable estate gift from Mel and Ruth Wolzinger will ultimately fund scholarships for about 250 students per year.
In order to thrive, UNLV needs a solid base of support for research and educational programs that emerge in response to the changing needs of our community and the organizations that hire UNLV graduates. Private gifts help build these programs and advance strategic initiatives that create opportunities for faculty and students. One example is the creation of The Lincy Institute. Together with the new Brookings Mountain West initiative, The Lincy Institute brings UNLV a comprehensive platform for addressing education, health care, social systems, and public policy. It not only refines and focuses existing strengths but develops a partnership that will shape the future of UNLV in the years to come.
The Invent the Future campaign also inspired our community to become more involved with UNLV. Today, more than 800 community members serve on volunteer advisory boards in colleges and units across the campus. These individuals share their expertise to ensure that the university is meeting the needs of its students and the community. Lecture programs, endowed professorships, and Rebel athletics also received funding through the Invent the Future campaign.
The $500 million that has been raised through the generosity of tens of thousands of donors has provided a strong foundation of funds to address some of the university's most critical needs. The success of the Invent the Future campaign, far from marking an end to private support, will help define future initiatives. Private contributions are more critical to UNLV than ever; it will be growing support from dedicated alumni and friends that will ensure that the generations of Nevadans to come will choose UNLV for its program excellence.