Pitt's Building Our Future Together Campaign Exceeds Goal of $2 Billion

Issue Date: 
October 15, 2012

The University of Pittsburgh has exceeded its goal of raising $2 billion through its Building Our Future Together capital campaign, the largest and most successful fundraising initiative in the history of Western Pennsylvania, Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg announced to a standing-room-only audience of more than 700 alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends in the J.W. Connolly Ballroom of Pitt’s Alumni Hall on Oct. 12. More than 182,000 donors contributed to this remarkable campaign success. Chancellor Nordenberg’s announcement was part of the University’s 225th anniversary Homecoming celebration, the largest Homecoming in Pitt’s history. 

When the campaign was announced in October 2000, its goal was $500 million. In 2002, after that goal was reached, it was doubled, to $1 billion. And in 2007, after $1 billion had been raised, the campaign goal was doubled again, to $2 billion. The Building Our Future Together campaign now has raised $2.047 billion, more than eight times the $251 million raised in the University’s largest prior fundraising initiative, the Campaign for the Third Century, which was launched during Pitt’s 1987 Bicentennial. 

“Exceeding our record-setting $2 billion campaign goal is a momentous milestone made possible by the extraordinary generosity of University supporters, who have demonstrated their commitment to Pitt and its longstanding mission of building better lives through the power of education and research,” said Chancellor Nordenberg. “More important than that extraordinarily large dollar amount is the impact that these funds will have—on the lives of our hard-working and high-achieving students, on the ambitious and often trailblazing work of our world-class faculty, and on the economic strength and vibrancy of our home region. These well-targeted investments in Pitt will help ensure the bright future of an institution whose long and proud 225-year history already spans two complete centuries and parts of two others. The entire University community is deeply grateful to each and every one of our donors.“

Among those who deserve great credit for this success are the members of our Board of Trustees,” Chancellor Nordenberg continued. “When others said that Pitt was not well positioned to raise any sizeable amount of money, our Trustees made the decision to push forward and prove that we could be a major force in fundraising, just as we are in education and research.”

“The remarkable success of this ambitious fundraising campaign is a testimony to the extraordinary generosity of our alumni, foundations, corporations, and other friends, as well as to the contributions from students, faculty, and staff whose combined outstanding work served as an inspiration for such giving,” said alumnus Stephen R. Tritch (ENGR ’71, BUS ’77G), chair of Pitt’s Board of Trustees and retired chair and chief executive officer of the Westinghouse Electric Company. “With its reputation for excellence steadily building throughout its 225-year history, the University of Pittsburgh is today held in the highest esteem regionally, nationally, and internationally for the quality of its education and research, for the stature of its students and faculty, and for the impact of its work. This is indeed an exciting and historic time for all of us privileged to play a role in the dramatic and still-unfolding story of success at Pitt.”

Of the more than 182,000 donors who have made gifts to the campaign, nearly 88,000 were alumni. As of Oct. 1, 2012, contributions from individuals totaled $813.6 million, or about 40 percent of the campaign total. Support from private organizations accounted for about 60 percent of the total, including $641 million from foundations, $192.6 million from corporations, and $366 million from other organizations. Nearly half of the total amount raised, $992 million, was given by donors from outside Pennsylvania—demonstrating that in fundraising, as in research, Pitt is a powerful magnet for attracting significant funds into Pennsylvania and, more particularly, into its home communities.To this point in the campaign, 315 donors have made gifts and pledges of $1 million or more, including 17 who made commitments of between $10 million and $25 million and 11 whose giving exceeded $25 million. Of the 315 donors who contributed $1 million or more, 90 never had made a past gift of any size to the University. 

The campaign attracted gifts of such historic size that they led to the naming of two key schools in honor of their benefactors, the John A. Swanson School of Engineering and the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, named to recognize the father of the late Trustee and donor William S. Dietrich. The campaign also enabled Pitt to construct buildings that physically transformed all five of our campuses. Some of the best-known construction projects are here in Pittsburgh, including the John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen Events Center, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the William R. Baierl Student Recreation Center, the James J. and Helene Barco Duratz Football Complex, the John J. Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, and the Petersen Sports Complex. Examples of campaign-supported new construction at other campuses include Blaisdell Hall and the Harriet Wick Chapel at Pitt-Bradford; the Campana Chapel and Lecture Hall at Pitt-Greensburg; and the Broadhurst Science Center at Pitt-Titusville. With the help of donors, the University also restored and renovated a large number of buildings, cleaned and repaired the exterior of the Cathedral of Learning, and accepted the unique and exceptional gift of what now is known as the Allen L. Cook Spring Creek Preserve, consisting of 6,000 acres of fossil-rich land in Wyoming.Campaign gifts positioned the University to launch a large number of critically important educational and research initiatives. Among others, these included such wide-ranging undertakings as the University’s Center for Energy, which has been generously supported by the Richard King Mellon Foundation; the Ford Institute for Human Security; the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration; the Hillman Fellows Program for Innovative Cancer Research; the LaVonne and Glen Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership; the Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research; the Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program; the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering; the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, which was started with generous support from the DSF Charitable Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation; the Frank and Athena Sarris Transplantation Clinic; the Frieda and Saul Shapira BRCA Cancer Research Program; the Dr. Richard E. and Dorothy L. Raizman Vaccine Research Discovery Laboratory; the Dorothy P. and Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease; the John A. Swanson Institute for Technical Excellence; the Dr. Gordon J. Vanscoy Pharmaceutical Endowment; and the Vascular Medicine Institute, which has been generously supported by the Institute for Transfusion Medicine and the Hemophilia Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.

Consistent with the University’s desire to build enduring strength, approximately one-third of the campaign dollars raised have been used, as directed by their donors, to create endowments—funds that are permanently invested by the University to perpetually generate a stream of income to support donor-designated initiatives. Such gifts have enabled the University to establish more than 1,500 new endowments, including 593 for student scholarships and fellowships, 145 for faculty chairs and named professorships, and hundreds more for such other purposes as research in specified areas, student life initiatives, faculty enrichment funds, and support for designated programs.

The chair of the campaign through its first $1 billion was Pitt Trustee Thomas J. Usher (ENGR ’64, ’66G, ’71G), the chairman of Marathon Petroleum Corporation and retired chair and CEO of U.S. Steel. All of his three earned Pitt degrees, including a PhD, are from the Swanson School of Engineering. Among their many contributions to Pitt, Tom Usher and his wife endowed the Sandra and Thomas Usher Chair in Melanoma as part of this campaign. 
The current cochairs of the campaign are Pitt Board of Trustees Vice Chair Eva Tansky Blum (A&S ’70, LAW ’73), senior vice president and director of community affairs for PNC Bank and president of The PNC Foundation, and her brother and fellow Pitt Trustee Burton M. Tansky (A&S ’61), retired president and CEO of The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. Their many contributions to Pitt include the gift they made together with their sister, Shirley Gordon, to name the Tansky Family Lounge in the William Pitt Union to honor their parents, Harry and Jeanette Tansky, immigrants from Poland and Russia, respectively. The elder Tanskys taught their children that education was the key to realizing the American dream. The family also created the Tansky Family Fund to support Alzheimer’s disease research.

Eva Tansky Blum is well aware of the tremendous impact that private support can have on students: As a Pitt undergraduate, she studied political science and then won a scholarship to attend Pitt’s law school. “Because my own life was changed by Pitt, it has been a true honor to work with literally hundreds of other dedicated volunteers, as well as the capable professionals at Pitt, to make this campaign a success,” said Eva Tansky Blum. “As a former scholarship recipient, I have always felt that I have a responsibility to help ensure that students coming after me also would have access to the wonderful opportunities that Pitt provides.”

Adding to his sister and cochair’s thoughts, Burt Tansky stated, “Eva and I came from a Pittsburgh family of modest means. We could not afford to go away to school. In fact, both of us began as commuter students. Without Pitt, it is unlikely that either of us would have been able to go to college. In that basic sense, it is absolutely true that the University of Pittsburgh changed our lives, and we feel fortunate that we were able to play a leadership role in this campaign that will help ensure that Pitt continues to have that same kind of positive impact in the lives of others.”

The Building Our Future Together campaign will continue through the June 30, 2013, end of the current “giving year.”

Pitt is one of only 10 U.S. universities currently pursuing publicly announced campaigns of $2 billion or more. They include Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, CUNY, Duke, Penn, Penn State, Texas, and Virginia.