UC Berkeley raises $3.13 billion from more than 281,000 donors

BERKELEY —

Despite publicly launching an ambitious fundraising campaign during the harshest economic crisis since the Great Depression, UC Berkeley officials announced today (Thursday, Feb. 27) that $3.13 billion has been raised in contributions from enough donors to fill California Memorial Stadium four times over.

Funds from The Campaign for Berkeley — gifts from more than 281,000 alumni, parents and friends — will create scholarships, fellowships and faculty chairs, and improve the lives of people around the world by supporting pioneering research and public service.

To celebrate the successful completion of the campaign, the university will organize a variety of activities, including tying giant ribbons on all facilities built or renovated with campaign support, on Cal Day, the campus’s annual open house on April 12.

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These are some of the faces of students, faculty, alumni and staff who participated in The Campaign for Berkeley’s Photo Booth. More than 5,000 people took part during the course of the campaign. (Photos by Christopher Irion)

The campaign’s public kick-off  followed its initial silent phase and took place the same week in 2008 that saw a 21 percent drop in the stock market, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the global financial crisis. Five-and-a-half years later, the campaign results reinforce UC Berkeley’s stature as the world’s preeminent public teaching and research university and an institution beloved and supported worldwide.

“This is a monumental and profound victory for Berkeley,” said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “Thanks to the unprecedented support of so many people, we are able to fulfill this university’s essential public promise: ensuring access for every talented student admitted, regardless of economic background, strengthening our comprehensive academic excellence and world-class faculty and making a better world.”

During the course of the campaign — led largely by then-Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau and covering the span from July 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2013 — UC Berkeley broke records for the number of students applying for admission, reaffirmed its place as the top public university in the country, was ranked among the most highly regarded universities in the world and earned four Nobel Prizes for research conducted by its faculty.

“This was a historic campaign not just for Berkeley, but for all public universities in the United States,” said Chancellor Emeritus Birgeneau. “It is broadly recognized that Berkeley has emerged from these most difficult five to six years every bit as strong, if not stronger. Most importantly, we did it without compromising our values and our commitment to access and excellence. I cannot thank all of the people involved in this campaign including our donors too much. You saved Berkeley!”

Added Vice Chancellor for University Relations Scott Biddy, “Let’s not forget, this success was achieved at a time of deep disinvestment in public higher education by the state of California. Reaching $3.13 billion shows the resolve of our alumni, parents and friends who believe deeply in Berkeley and its unique place in the world. Whether they gave $25 or $25 million, more than 281,000 donors stepped forward during this campaign to make convincing and consequential statements of support.”

The ‘crown jewel of public higher education’

 If there was a signature moment in the campaign, it came in 2007, during the silent phase, when philanthropist Walter Hewlett announced the largest private gift ever to UC Berkeley. The gift from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation was a challenge grant that resulted in 100 new endowed faculty chairs spread across every school and college on campus.

In announcing the gift, Hewlett called UC Berkeley the “crown jewel of public higher education” and urged alumni and friends to “hark and respond to her need at this time.” He added, “This is the hour to step forward to help one of the greatest causes in our society today.”

And donors did. Beyond the 100 endowed faculty chairs created through the Hewlett Challenge, funds for additional chairs were raised, bringing the grand total of endowed chairs from 320 before the campaign to 474 today. This nearly 50 percent increase in the number of endowed chairs boosts one of the most valuable tools in UC Berkeley’s arsenal for recruiting and retaining the world’s best faculty. 

The Hewlett Challenge also ushered in a broader model for endowed faculty chairs that touched numerous departments in each of the campus’s schools and colleges and provided support for graduate students. It also fostered innovative research that cut across traditional disciplines. 

Nowhere is UC Berkeley’s research and instruction enterprise more visible than in the 18 state-of-the-art facilities that were constructed or renovated during the campaign. By promoting new ways of conducting teaching and researching in these new or revamped facilities, campaign gifts transformed the way learning takes place on campus. 

Donor support made possible a diverse range of leading-edge work, from creating promising technologies and services at the Blum Center for Developing Economies that address global poverty, to developing biofuels at the Energy Biosciences Building that meet the world’s energy challenges, to preventing the root causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s, HIV and other diseases through efforts at the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Additionally, gifts from donors have helped to improve the student experience. Originally founded in the English department as the Chernin Mentoring Program, Berkeley Connect is a case in point. The program — which pairs undergraduate students with graduate student mentors and strengthens the bonds between students and their professors — has expanded to involve 10 departments across the campus.

‘I am so happy to be at Berkeley’

Donors’ generosity helped the number of endowed undergraduate scholarships jump by 36 percent. With 70 percent of UC Berkeley’s undergraduates receiving financial aid, and the campus serving nearly as many economically disadvantaged students as the Ivy League schools combined, this support is critical to keeping the campus accessible for future generations of students. 

UC Berkeley remains a beacon of opportunity, with more students applying for freshman admission each year. Currently, one-fourth of freshman are the first in their families to go to college, another indicator of the campus’s role as an engine of social mobility.

Many students overcome tremendous obstacles to attend UC Berkeley, and donors to the campaign recognized this by giving to programs that support a wide range of student services. This includes major support for groundbreaking initiatives including the Cal Independent Scholars Network Program, which provides comprehensive services to students who recently have emancipated from foster care or are orphaned, and the Undocumented Student Program, a national model that today assists nearly 300 students from 24 countries.

 “I am so happy to be at Berkeley — I never thought I would be here,” said Jamie Martínez, a transfer student from San Diego who reflects the kind of drive that propels students to UC Berkeley. He entered the foster care system at age four, but found the experience emotionally costly and fled from it when he was 17. For Martinez, the existence of the Cal Independent Scholars Network differentiated UC Berkeley from all the other universities he applied to for admission.

Financial support is even more critical for graduate students, with 90 percent of them receiving some form of assistance, from fellowships to loans. For them, funds raised in the campaign will have an equally tremendous impact — donors have boosted endowed graduate fellowships by 84 percent.

Increased support for graduate students is vital to UC Berkeley, which awards more Ph.D.s than any other university in the country and is the top-choice school for winners of National Science Foundation fellowships. During the campaign, the National Research Council ranked UC Berkeley’s Ph.D. programs among the nation’s best. UC Berkeley had the largest number of highly ranked graduate programs, with 48 of them in the top 10. 

Taken together, endowed funds for undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships — these awards numbered 1,700 before the campaign, but there are 2,629 today — account for $383.6 million raised in the campaign.

A volunteer-led effort

Countless Campaign for Berkeley volunteers traveled to or hosted events for alumni, parents and friends over the course of more than five years.

“Our volunteer leadership made this happen,” said Biddy, who credited the seven campaign co-chairs, national annual giving chair, the Campaign Steering Committee, the UC Berkeley Foundation, and a multitude of alumni, parent and student volunteers around the globe.

The Campaign for Berkeley was co-chaired by Barbara B. and Gerson P. Bakar, Coleman F. Fung, Paul E. Jacobs and Stacey Bracken Jacobs, James K. Lau and Katherine S. Lau, and Barclay and Sharon Simpson. Robert D. Haas served as the national annual giving chair, representing UC Berkeley before thousands of alumni, parents, students and friends at numerous events. 

Volunteers worked hard to increase the number of donors and encourage giving at every level; the median gift was $100. The effort helped the campus make inroads among newer bases of support, including students, younger alumni, faculty and parents.

An example of this push is the New Alumni Challenge, which matched gifts by recent graduates. As of Dec. 31, 2013, the challenge drew 32,000 gifts from more than 16,000 unique donors that raised $3.6 million.

The technical infrastructure for building support for the campus also was ramped up during the campaign. One barometer — annual gifts made online at givetocal.berkeley.edu — increased from $1.7 million raised in 2007 to more than $7.6 million in 2013.

The Campaign for Berkeley’s success is documented on the campaign website, which will expand in April to include individual success stories.