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Jesse Hall

Jesse Hall and the columns on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia, pictured on July 28, 2010. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford, elunsford@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • Leaders seem unfazed by a drop in fundraising that hit the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The university reported Thursday that it raised $152 million during the budget year that ended June 30, down $19 million from the previous year — a university record.

Almost one-third of the current year’s fundraising came from the athletics department, which was a record year for new athletic director Jim Sterk.

The drop comes a year and a half after student protests centered around issues of race brought the campus national attention.

Two top leaders resigned amid the strife during November 2015. The freshman class enrollment has since dropped more than 30 percent from projections of the incoming class versus the fall of 2015.

But with new leadership, a highly anticipated basketball season and big changes in the way the university operates, leaders are hopeful alumni and supporters recognize that this could be the dawn of a new era for the flagship campus.

“Having stability at the top will be critical,” said Tom Hiles, Mizzou’s vice chancellor for advancement.

He was talking about the still-new University of Missouri System president Mun Choi and the incoming Mizzou chancellor Alexander Cartwright, who starts Aug. 1. Both leaders are involved in building relationships with alumni and others to build support and bring in money for the campus, typical to any university.

Within three months after Choi arrived, he and the governing board tapped Cartwright to come in and lead the Columbia campus. He also announced a massive change in operations, cutting $100 million across all four University of Missouri campuses. The cuts included more than 500 positions being eliminated, the bulk of which were at Mizzou.

The cuts were twofold. Making up lost money from declining state appropriations and tuition revenue, but also to reinvest in programs that are doing well and have growth potential.

Hiles and his team point to this past year as a record for bringing in cash donations, as opposed to pledges.

According to the department, $121 million of the year’s total is in cash, which is the highest cash flow amount in the last five years.

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Officials also tout this year as one of the largest in number of $1 million or larger gifts.

He’s also hopeful about several larger gifts that weren’t finalized before the end of the last year, but will help kick off the 2018 budget year as his team continues to push a bigger fundraising campaign.

The school reports reaching almost $906 million out of a $1.3 billion goal for the “Our Time to Lead” campaign, which ends June 2020.

The campaign, which started in October 2015, focuses on funding scholarships, campus centers and institutes that boost research productivity and campus facilities.

“With new leadership across campus, we are committed to making Mizzou even stronger, and private support continues to be essential to our success,” Hiles said in a statement. “We are very pleased that we are on track to exceed our $1.3 billion goal by 2020.”