Nine years and four months after Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University was launched, the bold initiative to provide a strong foundation for the university’s future ended June 30 with spectacular results. On August 29, the university announced that Leading Together raised an unprecedented $3.378 billion to strengthen the institution’s impact on society, making it the most successful fundraising campaign in university history.
Nearly 160,000 alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff members, and organizations made gifts and commitments through Leading Together, providing record amounts for scholarships, academic programs, and facilities. These gifts and commitments will bolster the university’s endowment by $1.264 billion, including funding to establish 153 endowed positions—professorships, directorships, and the university’s first endowed deanships and coaching position.
“This campaign was conceived and planned by dedicated university leaders and volunteers and realized by generous donors who made gifts of all sizes in order to further our mission to improve lives through teaching, research, and service. We are profoundly grateful to them all.”
— Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton
The success of Leading Together represents the fulfillment of the Plan for Excellence, the comprehensive strategic plan that established priorities for the campaign. Developed by administrators, faculty members, the Board of Trustees, and other volunteers, the plan identified Washington University’s greatest opportunities for growth and influence. It also called for resources to advance an overarching goal: enhancing the university’s leadership today to benefit America and the world tomorrow.
“In the years since the campaign began, we have seen an extraordinary effect on our campuses and beyond,” says Life Trustee Andy Taylor, executive chairman of St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings and chair of the public phase of the campaign. “Not only are we defining and reaching new heights in research and scholarship, but we also are preparing students from diverse backgrounds to be leaders with fulfilling lives and careers. Leading Together will be remembered for generations as the catalyst for unprecedented progress.”
After the completion of the Plan for Excellence, the leadership phase of Leading Together began in March 2009, during the leanest days of the Great Recession, with an initial goal of $2.2 billion. Despite the timing, the response was strong. By the time the campaign was launched publicly two years and seven months later, the total amount raised was $1.13 billion.
Life Trustees John F. McDonnell, DSc ’06, MBA ’14, retired chairman of the board of McDonnell Douglas Corp., and Sam Fox, BSBA ’51, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium and retired chairman and CEO of Harbour Group Ltd., led the leadership phase.
A celebration dinner to kick off the public phase of Leading Together was held October 6, 2012, at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis. More than 1,200 members of the university community attended. Nearly 7,000 additional alumni, parents, and friends attended 32 subsequent regional events held over the course of the campaign.
In June 2014, the total for Leading Together surpassed the $1.55 billion raised through the university’s previous campaign, which ended in 2004. The university announced in January 2016 that Leading Together was expected to reach its initial goal two years ahead of schedule. Seeking to push the campaign total closer to the estimated $4 billion needed to fully implement the Plan for Excellence, the Board of Trustees approved a new goal of $2.5 billion.
At the time, Chancellor Wrighton said, “A great university has great responsibilities, both to our students and to the society we serve. That responsibility has increased in proportion to the growth and progress we have achieved through the campaign. This offers us an unprecedented opportunity to aim even higher.”
Drive and Determination
By the end of the campaign, it was clear that the Washington University community had heeded the chancellor’s call, making possible an array of enhancements in critical areas, including scholarships and fellowships to open doors of opportunity for outstanding students; endowed positions to attract and retain exceptional teachers, scholars, and leaders; research and academic programs to create new knowledge and address the world’s greatest challenges; and state-of-the-art facilities to support this work.
“The Leading Together campaign owes its success to many people—first of all, the philanthropic supporters of Washington University,” says David Blasingame, executive vice chancellor for alumni and development programs. “We also owe tremendous thanks to our devoted trustees, campaign leaders, faculty and staff members, and other volunteers, who worked hand in hand with Chancellor Wrighton, as well as our development team, to achieve this exciting result.”
Nearly 4,400 alumni, parents, and friends served as campaign volunteers. Representing various schools and regions of the country— as well as the international community—they helped implement and strengthen support for Leading Together. This includes more than 80 faculty and staff members who served on committees for the faculty and staff component of the campaign, which raised $65 million.
“These men and women diligently and selflessly helped organize the campaign and bring it to a strong close,” Mr. McDonnell says. Adds Mr. Fox, “Their drive and determination serve as an example of how much can be accomplished when talented and passionate people work together to advance a cause they believe in.”
Holden Thorp, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, says the leadership and collaboration that were hallmarks of Leading Together will not end with the campaign’s conclusion. “This is our commitment: Together, we will contribute to shaping the 21st century and beyond. Together, we will lead.”
Campaign’s Impact on Students and Faculty
Class of 2019
President, Student Union
“Washington University students are blessed to attend a university where alumni, parents, and friends are so dedicated to helping the institution continue to thrive and grow. The support provided through Leading Together for scholarships is particularly exciting. It sends a strong signal that donors are committed to bringing more talented students to the university, regardless of their socioeconomic background. My scholarship means so much to me. It demonstrates that the university is invested in my success, and I know other scholarship recipients feel the same way. On behalf of the student body, thank you to everyone who contributed to the campaign.”
Professor of art and American culture studies
Chair, Faculty Senate Council
“Faculty members at Washington University are deeply committed to the university’s mission to teach, discover, and serve. The resources provided through the campaign are enhancing our ability to fulfill that mission. Personally, I have been working with the University Libraries for many years to develop distinctive collections of 19th- and 20th-century illustration. Campaign support for this work has had a huge impact on my research and the university’s role in a young and developing field. The generosity of every campaign donor will pave the way for many exciting achievements.”