Halfway there to 'Making History'


Capital campaign at $1.79 billion 15 weeks into public fundraising




"Making History" is making strides.

Only four months into its public phase, Penn's capital campaign - spearheaded by University President Amy Gutmann - reached and surpassed the halfway mark to its $3.5 billion goal last week.

As of yesterday, the campaign had raised $1.79 billion, 51 percent of its total goal.

"There's a long way to go, but we have for this fiscal year hit $320 million dollars in pledges, which is enormous," Gutmann said.

The campaign reached this point slightly ahead of schedule, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations John Zeller said.

"I think this reflects the tremendous resonance with our donors, friends and parents," he said.

Director of Penn Alumni Elise Betz pointed to the regional launch events - in which campaign leaders travel to various cities across the world and garner support for the campaign - as the main contributor to the recent success.

"They generate excitement," she said. "[The events] focus on people who have not been close to campus and tell them what's going on with the campaign."

The University recently held events in Boston, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Future events are planned for New York, Miami, Chicago and London in the coming months.

Provost Ron Daniels said he is "absolutely delighted" about reaching this mark.

"We now have both the momentum and the confidence to move forward on our top priorities that support our academic endeavors," he said.

In terms of the campaign's future, Zeller addressed concerns about the "peaks and valleys" of the economy.

"We will continue to work right through [the uncertainty]," he said. "And I'm confident we will be very successful in the end."

Experts say that, despite success so far, the second half of the money may be harder to solicit.

"It's always tougher when you get to the lower-hanging fruit," said Carol Wittmeyer, president of the Meliora Group, a fundraising consulting company. "It gets harder after your best prospects [for donations] have been solicited."

Nonetheless, Wittmeyer added that the campaign is in "great shape" and that she expects it will exceed its $3.5 billion goal.

It isn't all about the numbers, however.

Zeller said fundraising will continue to focus on the campaign's ultimate priorities of increasing financial aid, improving facilities and increasing faculty support.

"I think the important piece to remember here is less about the big number and more about the specific goals," he said. "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

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