The University of Missouri-Columbia has set a new single-year fundraising record, bringing in nearly $171 million in donations during the 2016 fiscal year.
Mizzou’s previous record of $164.5 million was set in 2014.
In making the announcement, interim Chancellor Hank Foley attributed the feat to loyal alumni.
“The University of Missouri has faced unprecedented challenges in the last year,” he said. “However, it should come as no surprise that the Mizzou family has responded with extraordinary generosity.”
Foley’s announcement comes eight months after the university faced national scrutiny after a series of racial incidents.
Additionally, a number of black and other minority students reported that they felt general hostility toward them on campus.
The fundraising announcement also follows the university’s acknowledgment in February that it had lost $2 million in donations after as many as 10 donors rescinded their pledges at least in part due to the November protests that led to President Timothy M. Wolfe’s resignation.
Thomas Hiles, vice chancellor for university advancement, said the events of last fall were some of the most difficult he’s experienced during his 32-year career.
The upheaval has also led, in part, to an expected decline in enrollment this fall. University leaders are expecting to see roughly 2,600 fewer students on campus in the coming school year, including 1,500 fewer freshmen.
A month before the protests, Mizzou kicked off the $1.3 billion “Mizzou: Our Time to Lead” fundraising campaign.
“We had just mounted our big campaign on Oct. 8,” he said. “And then four weeks later, the president resigns and we are getting all kinds of national coverage.”
Hiles reports that in the immediate aftermath of the protests, Mizzou leaders fielded more than 3,000 emails and numerous calls from people who promised never to donate money to the university again.
Additionally, donors either rescinded or threatened to rescind about $5 million in pledged donations.
“Some of those are still pending,” Hiles said.
To turn things around, Hiles said, university leaders consulted with officials from Penn State University. Penn State had just kicked off a fundraising campaign in 2011 when the child sex abuse scandal involving assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky broke.
“What happened was that we really had a rallying around the flag from our alumni,” Hiles said.
He added that Foley’s willingness to travel the country speaking with donors and the connections the university has made previously helped them close on several donations.
The university reports that it was able to continue a three-year trend in which it received 20 or more donations of at least $1 million.
Texas billionaire delivers
In all, nearly 44,000 donors made donations, pledges or estate gifts to the university between June 1, 2015 and May 31. One of the biggest, made on the opening day of the fundraising campaign, came from Mizzou alum and Texas pipeline billionaire Richard Kinder and his wife, Nancy.
The $25 million gift from the Kinder Foundation was earmarked to establish the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. In an interview last fall, Kinder said he envisioned the center to be a collection of programs centered on the founding fathers and their vision for America.
Another large donation came from an anonymous donor who pledged nearly $14 million to the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources scholars fund.
The two donations are significantly higher than 2015’s largest donation of $10 million from Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield. The Sinquefields, however, donated an additional $2 million to Mizzou this year.
The big donations offset the loss of smaller donations. Mizzou’s News Bureau reports that donations of $10,000 or less dipped to $20.6 million this year compared with $21.2 million a year ago.
The record-setting year brings the “Mizzou: Our Time to Lead” campaign total to $762 million — more than halfway to the $1.3 billion goal announced in October. The campaign is centered on raising money for the university’s endowment, its special centers and institutes of study and campus improvements.
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