Campaign for Nebraska advances NU's service to the state, world

October 28, 2014

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Campaign’s success comes on heels of consecutive years of record giving to NU

Without scholarships, Sergio Ceja – the first in his family to attend college – might not have time to get involved in student government, the Greek system or other organizations at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a campus that feels like a second home to him and where his younger brother also plans to attend.

An endowed chair has helped Angela Hodge, associate professor and Dr. George Haddix Community Chair of Mathematics, expand the reach of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s mathematics department, fueling more students’ interest in critical science- and math-related fields.

Private gifts, together with generous state and local public support, are turning the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center from a vision into a reality, helping the University of Nebraska Medical Center attract top talent like Sarah Thayer, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist from Harvard Medical School.

Nebraska’s next generation of rural entrepreneurs is receiving the training and mentorship they need to successfully start their own businesses thanks to the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

And founding gifts for the Buffett Early Childhood Institute and Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute helped the University of Nebraska recruit recognized leaders in the fields – Samuel Meisels and Roberto Lenton, respectively – who will help position the university as a global leader in early childhood education and the sustainable use of water for agriculture, among other areas.

These are just a handful of ways that the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities – the most successful fundraising effort in the history of the University of Nebraska – is transforming the university’s ability to serve people in the state and around the world. The university and University of Nebraska Foundation announced today that the campaign, which concludes Dec. 31, 2014, has raised more than $1.8 billion for the University of Nebraska. That’s 50 percent more than the $1.2 billion goal set for the campaign that began in 2005.

The campaign’s final year was fueled by an exceptionally strong fundraising year for the University of Nebraska Foundation, which raised $258.1 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014. That figure represents the best fundraising year ever in the foundation’s 78-year history.

Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, expressed gratitude to the more than 97,000 individuals and organizations who gave during the campaign, more than half of whom were first-time donors to the university. He also thanked the foundation’s volunteer leadership, including its nearly 900 trustees and more than 300 volunteers who gave their time to the campaign, including the more than 30 volunteer committees focused on colleges and specific priorities on the NU campuses.

“It is because of the passion, generosity and commitment of our donors, volunteers and friends – not to mention the thousands of students, faculty and staff who are the lifeblood of this university – that the Campaign for Nebraska has been such a tremendous success,” Hastings said. “They have seen, as I have, that something special is happening at the University of Nebraska, and they’ve wanted to be a part of it. Together, they have proven that the possibilities for the university really are unlimited.”

Interim University of Nebraska President James Linder, M.D., said, “Our vision for the University of Nebraska is to become the best public university in the country in terms of our impact on the people we serve. Because of the Campaign for Nebraska, we are in a tremendous position to achieve that goal. Our work in making a college education more affordable for students, attracting talented employees, developing world-class facilities and building a global reputation for the university in areas important to Nebraskans and others continues, but it has been greatly enhanced over the course of this campaign. Great things are ahead for the University of Nebraska – thanks in no small part to the individuals who have selflessly contributed their time, energy and resources.”

Linder said the outcomes of the campaign are numerous, putting the university in a strong position as it looks to its next phase of momentum and growth. For example, thanks in part to private support that helps expand access to more students, NU’s enrollment reached 51,215 this fall, a 21-year high and a 13 percent increase since 2004. Nearly half of Nebraska’s top high school graduates – those graduating in the top quartile of their class – now choose the University of Nebraska.

Linder also noted that Nebraska is now among the top 10 states in the country in college-going. Minority enrollment at NU has increased more than 25 percent in the past five years, and international enrollment topped 4,000 this fall, a record high.

Fundraising for the Campaign for Nebraska began in 2005, and the campaign was publicly announced in 2009. It is the third major campaign the foundation has conducted; the previous effort, Campaign Nebraska, ended in 2000 having raised $728 million.

The campaign has focused on nine priority areas for the university, developed by university leadership including President Emeritus James B. Milliken and the university chancellors in conjunction with the foundation. Student support was the highest priority, and donors have generously contributed more than $265 million for scholarships, fellowships and other forms of student support.

Faculty support was another key priority, with $90 million given to create nearly 200 new funds for endowed chairs, professorships and other forms of faculty support to help the university to recruit and retain even more top talent. The university also has set a goal to expand opportunities for global engagement, including growing participation in study abroad programs and attracting more international students.
Additionally, the campaign has focused on academic areas where the University of Nebraska has a history of excellence and is in a position to have a global impact. They include water for food, cancer research and care, early childhood education, agriculture and life sciences, business and information technology, and architectural engineering and construction. The university has made significant progress in each area on behalf of Nebraskans and people around the world, thanks in part to private support.

Linder noted that private funds are a tremendous supplement to state appropriations, which form the base of support for the university’s core operations. About 99 percent of all gifts to the foundation are designated toward a specific purpose and must be spent in accordance with the donor’s wishes.

“The University of Nebraska is on a phenomenal trajectory, and donors have helped put us there,” said Howard Hawks, chairman of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and a member of the Campaign for Nebraska executive committee. “Their support has allowed us to reach further, dream bigger and stretch higher. We thank them for what they’ve done to meet the needs of the university, our students and our faculty. I am proud to be associated with this great university and the people who support it.”

Tonn Ostergard, chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation Board of Directors, said it’s an especially proud time to be an alumnus of the University of Nebraska.

“The University of Nebraska Foundation could not be more grateful to all those who have supported our university these past nine years,” Ostergard said. “It has been amazing to see how everyone’s support for this campaign with gifts of absolutely every amount has helped position the university for an outstanding future. Years from now we’ll continue to see its effects on our students, faculty, academic programs and research.”

Ostergard said the foundation would now turn its attention to what additional support is needed to make sure that college is accessible for all students.

Ostergard also praised the work of the campaign’s volunteer executive committee, whose members are James Abel of Lincoln, Susie Buffett of Omaha, James Clifton of Washington, D.C., Michael Dunlap of Lincoln, John Gottschalk of Omaha, Larry Hall of Grand Junction, Colo., Howard Hawks of Omaha, Bruce Lauritzen of Omaha, Jeff Raikes of Seattle, Wash., and Ashland, Walter Scott of Omaha, Ronald Williams of Denver, Colo., Gail Walling Yanney, M.D., and Michael Yanney of Omaha, and the late James Young of Omaha.

Record fundraising year announced

Announcement of the success of Campaign for Nebraska comes on the heels of consecutive record-breaking years for private giving to the University of Nebraska. Alumni, friends and organizations gave a record $258.1 million this year, representing a 9 percent increase from last year’s record of $236.7 million donated.

The foundation’s total assets, which include the endowment, cash holdings and other assets, totaled $2.3 billion at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2014. The foundation’s endowment realized a return of 17.6 percent for the year.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 78 years. In the 2014 fiscal year, donors provided the university with $258.1 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty support and facilities. The foundation’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.8 billion for the university and ends on Dec. 31. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska