The University of Illinois Springfield‘s fundraising campaign was enough to set off fireworks.
The five-year public campaign, coinciding with the university’s 50th anniversary, wrapped up June 30, raising about $42.5 million for student scholarships and several other priority areas. It was the first time the amount raised was disclosed publicly.
A celebration of the feat Thursday attracted about 275 donors and supporters and brought together four of the university’s past and present chancellors. It included a dinner and a fireworks display to cap off the evening.
Reaching Stellar was the UIS part of a $3.1 billion campaign by the University of Illinois System, which includes campuses in Urbana-Champaign and Chicago. It was the system’s largest fundraising campaign ever.
UIS received 125,498 gifts from 17,923 donors. A quiet campaign began in 2014 before the public campaign was launched in October 2017 with a goal of $40 million.
More than $8 million has been committed to more than 70 new scholarship funds that have already assisted close to 300 additional students to date, according to a news release.
Some of the funds targeted the Center for Lincoln Studies, which is housed at the UIS’s Public Affairs Center and helps shepherd Abraham Lincoln scholars to resources in Springfield. The center has a reference room and work stations that scholars and individuals doing research can use as a home base.
Also benefitting from the campaign were areas like the Illinois Innocence Project, Innovate Springfield, NPR Illinois and the UIS Performing Arts Center.
Joining Chancellor Janet Gooch Thursday were past chancellors Naomi Lynn (also a past president of SSU, 1991-2001) and Susan Koch (2011-2020), past interim chancellor Karen Whitney (2020-2022) and University of Illinois System president Timothy Killeen.
Saul Morse of Springfield, who joined the University of Illinois Foundation Board of Directors as a governing director in 2015, co-chaired the Reaching Stellar campaign with Hy Bunn, the president and CEO of the Bunn-O-Matic Corporation in Springfield.
Morse, an attorney with Brown, Hay & Stephens, LLC, said he was involved with the campaign from the get-go.
“We were cautiously optimistic when we began (the campaign),” Morse said. “A lot of effort went into it. The (COVID-19) pandemic, obviously, like every other part of society, had a real impact. We couldn’t have events. We couldn’t meet with people to find out their major interests and explain what UIS does, so we’re delighted we got to the $42.4 million when we did.”
Gooch, who took over as chancellor on July 1, credited Koch and Whitney for ensuring the campaign’s success despite a two-year state budget impasse and a global pandemic.
“The campaign,” Gooch said, “raised millions more for scholarships so students can further their education and saw the opening of the Student Union in 2018, the first building constructed on campus with significant support from donors and student fees. We owe them so much for their dedication to UIS.”
Jeff Lorber, UIS vice chancellor for advancement and senior vice president for the University of Illinois Foundation, said UIS is stronger financially “thanks to the investment of donors who see the potential the university has to change lives of students and improve the communities they call home, for the better.”
UIS reversed a five-year enrollment drop with a 6.4% increase in the fall, though those numbers came for a boost in graduate students.
The school was established as Sangamon State University in 1969 and classes kicked off at First United Methodist Church in downtown Springfield in the fall of 1970. SSU became part of the University of Illinois system in 1995.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.