$1 billion in sight at NCSU

University ups the ante in campaign

Staff WriterSeptember 24, 2005 

Making it clear they intend to play -- and stay -- in the big leagues, leaders at N.C. State University announced their intention Friday to raise $1 billion.

The goal, well-known among insiders for several years, is certain to be met. By tapping corporations and wealthy individuals during the campaign's "silent phase," NCSU has raised $836 million since July 2001.

"I'm certain we will reach $1 billion, and then we'll keep right on going," Chancellor Jim Oblinger said. "As more people understand what we are doing, we are finding more people who want to contribute. It's an historic campaign."

Much of the money has already been put to use in areas such as research projects, academic scholarships and new buildings.

Billion-dollar fund-raisers are no longer rare in higher education, but they are still unusual.

Only 47 universities have committed themselves to the goal nationally, said John Lippincott, president of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Only 23 of those are public universities.

In North Carolina, both Duke University, which has finished its campaign, and UNC-Chapel Hill belong in the billion-dollar club.

But one of the things that sets NCSU apart is its lack of a medical or law school -- two key areas where universities often find wealthy donors.

"The absence of those schools means other alumni need to be very generous -- and it appears that has already happened at N.C. State," Lippincott said.

Consistent with its roots, the state's largest university turned to contributors in areas such as agriculture, engineering, technology and lumber.

Sources of donations

A list of 29 individuals or families who contributed $1 million or more includes two trustees -- Bob Jordan and Wendell Murphy -- who made their money in lumber and pork, respectively. About two dozen corporations also contributed at least $1 million each.

The current effort can trace its roots to a much-smaller campaign to raise money for student scholarships in the 1990s. When donors quickly passed the $40 million goal of that campaign and kept giving until the drive had raised more than $120 million, NCSU leaders began to rethink the university's fund-raising potential, Oblinger said.

The current campaign had an original goal of $750 million that had to be reset before its public portion was unveiled.

"There's real symbolism in the 'B' word," Oblinger said. "A billion dollars is just a huge amount of money that puts us in elite company and shines a light on all the things we do."

At least $192 million of the current campaign will be used for student scholarships. The largest portions of the campaign will go to buildings -- from academics to athletics -- and research.

Some of the buildings, such as Vaughn Towers at Carter-Finley Stadium, are already done. Others, including the Friday Institute, a new alumni center and a new visitor's center, will open within months.

Two hefty gifts

Friday's announcements were capped with news that NCSU has also received two of the biggest gifts in its history.

Edward Fitts, a 1961 graduate of the engineering program and CEO of a global-packaging company, pledged $10 million to the College of Engineering. The industrial engineering department will be renamed in his honor.

A $20 million contribution by the R.B. Terry Jr. Charitable Foundation will also be given to the College of Veterinary Medicine. Randall Terry Jr., who died in 2004, was deeply involved in the vet school as well as previous fund-raisers by the university. He was the former publisher of the High Point Enterprise newspaper.

The university's public portion of the campaign will now solicit smaller contributions from a larger number of people, said Terry Wood, vice chancellor for university advancement.

"We want people to know there is room for everyone at the table," Wood said. "The person who gives $100 is just as much a part of this campaign as anyone else."

Staff writer Tim Simmons can be reached at 829-4535 or tsimmons@newsobserver.com.

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