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History at Penn will soon be made.

Barring any unlikely setbacks, the University is set to reach its $3.5-billion goal in the “Making History” fundraising campaign before 2012 begins, Penn President Amy Gutmann said.

Since its launch in October 2007, the campaign has raised $3.48 billion from alumni and other donors — including a record-breaking gift of $225 million from Raymond and Ruth Perelman in May to the now-renamed Perelman School of Medicine. Making History is scheduled to come to a close in December 2012.

Though Gutmann declined to provide the specific date on which she anticipates Penn to hit the $3.5-billion mark, she said it will be a “momentous occasion” for the University.

“It’s an enormous confirmation of the generosity, loyalty and enthusiasm of Penn alumni, parents and friends of Penn,” she said, adding that the University will continue to “see how far past $3.5 billion we can go” over the remaining 16 months of fundraising.

But with the campaign nearing its final year, some at Penn are beginning to look toward the future.

John Zeller, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, said his office will soon begin drafting a list of fundraising priorities to take effect in January 2013. While there are no plans to implement a new University-wide campaign of comparable size and scope to Making History, Zeller is encouraged by the future of philanthropy at Penn.

Since the start of the Making History campaign, he explained, 25 percent of total gifts and donations have fallen between the $1 to $100,000 range. Penn has received more than 766,000 individual donations, he added.

“So many campaigns are geared toward the big, multi-million dollar donations,” he said. “The fact that so much of our support has come in that smaller range is a remarkable statistic. It bodes well for our years to come.”

Like Zeller, Gutmann said she will soon begin to identify goals for Penn after the campaign ends.

She pointed to bolstering Penn’s endowment resources for undergraduate financial aid, as well as increasing the number of endowed professorships, as two priorities for future fundraising.

Although Gutmann explained that Penn remains relatively under-endowed for financial aid compared to some of its peer institutions, Director of Student Financial Aid Bill Schilling said the Making History campaign “is what’s made it possible to have as robust an undergraduate program as we do.”

Looking back to the start of the campaign in 2007, Gutmann said both she and the Board of Trustees “thought $3.5 billion was a stretch goal.”

However, for Graduate School of Education professor Marybeth Gasman, an institution like Penn would “never have picked a fundraising target they thought was too lofty to reach.”

Gasman, who studies philanthropy in higher education, explained that colleges and universities typically begin any multi-year fundraising campaign with around half of their financial goals already met. In Penn’s case, the University started in 2007 with $1.6 billion of $3.5 billion already raised.

Gasman said that alumni who hear about Penn hitting its $3.5-billion goal in the near future “could be so excited with meeting that target that they pledge to give more.” As a result, the Making History campaign “has a real possibility” to amass $4 billion by next December, she added.

“Whereas the impetus for giving to a school used to be based on need, it’s now based on success,” she said. “People like to be affiliated with successful institutions, and that’s what Penn has going for it.”

Regardless of whether the University hits the $4-billion mark or not, Gutmann has her eyes set on the future.

“This is not going to be ‘history has been made and now we just celebrate,’” she said. “We will have achieved the goals of this campaign, but there are still plenty of big problems in the world and I want Penn people to be able to solve them.”

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