(Photography by Robert Kozloff)

Onward and upward

With a string of headline gifts since its public launch, the UChicago Campaign is gathering momentum.

The vision is bold: Crossing the stage at Convocation, every College student steps into professional life with a wealth of meaningful work experience—and an absence of debt.

Carried out on the molecular scale, novel engineering techniques make their impact on the human scale, combating disease, transforming energy storage, and providing clean water where people need it most.

In the world’s cities, evidence-based solutions developed by Crime Lab and Urban Education Institute researchers help improve the lives of millions.

The campaign goals are equally ambitious. The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact seeks to raise $4.5 billion to pursue outcomes of this magnitude across the University. From the Division of the Humanities to the University of Chicago Medicine to the Marine Biological Laboratory to campus life, a successful campaign will power a greater UChicago and the potential of students, faculty, alumni, parents, families, and friends to make a difference.

Hand in hand with the fundraising goal goes another just as bold, and symbolically tied to the 125th anniversary in 2015: to engage 125,000 alumni with the institution and each other. By enriching the life of the worldwide UChicago community through volunteering, attending an event, or making a gift, alumni count toward the goal. Last year, 81,000 alumni engaged with the University in one of these ways.

During a quiet phase preceding the October 29 public launch, the campaign reached nearly half its fundraising goal, and by mid-December it had already passed the $2.3 billion mark. Trustee support has been especially foundational; at the time of the launch, every University trustee had participated, with their contributions totaling $827 million.

One measure of the UChicago Campaign’s ambition? Its $4.5 billion goal is more than twice that of the last campaign. That undertaking, the Chicago Initiative, aimed for $2 billion, but the University community’s generosity had helped outdistance this goal by some $380 million at its conclusion in 2008. That above-and-beyond show of support from alumni, parents, families, friends, and trustees helped fuel the University’s momentum and achievements since then—a trajectory that the University of Chicago Campaign seeks to extend to even greater heights.

The scale of the undertaking, for University President Robert J. Zimmer, compares to the feats achieved by William Rainey Harper and John D. Rockefeller, who looked out on empty fields on Chicago’s South Side and saw the great university that could spring up there. It took years of dedicated work infusing others with their passion. Building the new institution was an expansive collective effort, and the result of many individual efforts that went, in Zimmer’s words, “beyond reasonable expectations.” Speaking to a group of the University’s most generous alumni and friends at an October launch event, Zimmer invoked those founding efforts as a guiding example.

“Each of us has benefited through the work, the determination, the fearlessness, the generosity, and the belief in the future that built and sustained the University,” Zimmer said. “Now it is our turn. Our responsibility is to do what the founders of this University did, and what the generations that followed them did. We must succeed far beyond reasonable expectations.”

Four gifts from trustees announced this fall demonstrate that very generosity and belief in the future. The gifts will sustain core values of the University—research, education, collaboration, accessibility—and illustrate the campaign’s potential to deepen inquiry across the University and magnify its impact.

Two major gifts to the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy include the largest in its history. Both will support a broader agenda for the school and help it move to a new home. On November 5, a few weeks before Chicago Harris celebrated its 25th anniversary, the University announced the record-setting $20 million gift from Campaign Council members Dennis J. Keller, MBA’68, cofounder and retired chairman and CEO of DeVry Education Group, and Constance T. Keller. The Kellers committed an additional $5 million to Chicago Booth.

Also investing in Chicago Harris’s future, King Harris, chairman of Harris Holdings Inc. and board chair of AptarGroup Inc., and Caryn Harris will give $12.5 million and extend their family’s long-standing support. King Harris’s uncle, Irving B. Harris, along with his wife, Joan Harris, provided the core endowment for the school, which was then called the Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and was renamed in his honor in 1990.

Under new dean Daniel Diermeier (see On the Agenda) and with the support of the gifts from the Kellers and Harrises, Chicago Harris will move a few doors east on 60th Street. The New Graduate Residence Hall, designed by Edward Durrell Stone and opened in 1963 as the Center for Continuing Education, will undergo a major renovation and adaptive reuse project. The project will preserve key features of Stone’s original design while recasting the interior space for teaching, research, and events, and will incorporate sustainable building technologies.

“We are in an ideal position to extend our reach,” said Diermeier. “At this critical moment in the school’s development, these gifts will allow us to build a facility that will accommodate the ambitious work that our faculty and students are known for.” The new space, to be named the Keller Center, will also position Chicago Harris to continue an upward trend. Over the past decade, the school has increased and diversified its enrollment and attracted more international students. The Keller Center, significantly larger than Chicago Harris’s current home at 1155 East 60th Street, will create room to continue growing, both for the student body and for the faculty.

With them will grow a curriculum that has already expanded to include programs in critical areas of today’s policy landscape. Recent innovations include an interdisciplinary master’s degree program in computational analysis and public policy that is the first of its kind. The school has also forged an academic partnership with Argonne National Laboratory for its master’s program in environmental science and policy, and launched new research centers for policy entrepreneurship and municipal finance.

Part of the Harrises’ gift is a $2.5 million commitment that goes to the 2x20 Fund, a new initiative designed to increase enrollment, boost faculty research, and implement more leadership development programs in those key areas, preparing Chicago Harris students to serve governments, nonprofits, and businesses worldwide. Keller expects his and his wife’s gifts to Chicago Harris and Chicago Booth will encourage new partnerships between students and faculty at the two professional schools. Diermeier sees greater international opportunities for future Harris students resulting from the Kellers’ and Harrises’ generosity too.

The University draws thinkers and leaders from all over to join the conversations and collaborations that define UChicago inquiry. A new building on South Campus, announced in October, will provide more meeting space, letting the conversations multiply and the magnetism grow. In recognition of a significant gift from trustee David Rubenstein, JD’73, the innovative hub will be named the Rubenstein Forum.

The building, slated for completion in 2018 on South Campus, will overlook the Midway Plaisance along 60th Street between Woodlawn and Kimbark Avenues. A site for academic conferences, workshops, lectures, meetings, ceremonies, and other gatherings, it will incorporate spaces for people to come together formally and informally and dynamic, advanced technology. The Rubenstein Forum will enable the University to host on campus many of the conferences and other events now being held in downtown Chicago. It will be a destination for members of the campus community as well as visiting scholars, distinguished guests, alumni, and others.

A process for selecting the building’s architect will be announced later this year. In designing the Rubenstein Forum, the University is aiming to set a new standard of environment for what Zimmer called “the regular and rigorous exchange of ideas that is a hallmark of the University of Chicago.” Provost Eric D. Isaacs added that “proposing, exchanging, and testing ideas is at the heart of our work as scholars. … The Rubenstein Forum will reaffirm that value in the most practical way, satisfying a growing need and supporting the ambitions of our faculty.”

For Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, increasing access to a UChicago education is personal. “I was not yet a citizen when the University of Chicago business school offered me a scholarship,” he said. “It changed my life.” A $13 million gift from the Neubauer Family Foundation, announced in December, will do the same for future generations.

The gift supports two new programs to help talented students reach the College. Through the Neubauer Family Program for Students from Hispanic Communities, the College will work with high school guidance counselors in US Latino/Hispanic communities to identify promising students, some of whom will be invited on overnight campus visits to learn more about college and UChicago. Between their junior and senior years, some students will then have the opportunity to take classes through the Graham School Summer Session. Those who apply and matriculate at the College will receive four years of tuition support.

The other program, Neubauer No Barriers Scholarships, will help a group of students for whom US universities have largely been off limits: international students from lower- to middle-income families. Ineligible for most American financial aid, few of these students matriculate at US colleges. By creating scholarships especially for them, Neubauer No Barriers will enable the most qualified to attend the College, where they will add to the diversity of experience in classrooms and residence halls.

The Neubauer Family Foundation’s gift goes further, benefiting students and families beyond UChicago through the Admissions Academy program. Through the program, University admissions staff help families around the country navigate the college application and financial aid application processes, regardless of where their students plan to apply. With support from the gift, Admissions Academy programs will now be offered bilingually to Spanish-speaking families.

In addition to their giving, Joe Neubauer and Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer are leaders of the campaign, he as its chair and both as members of the Campaign Council. The two new programs established by their gift build on years of work to increase access to a College education: the Odyssey Scholarships program, UChicago Promise, and, most recently, No Barriers, which, starting with the Class of 2019, will replace loans with grants in all need-based aid packages and make it easier for families to apply for admission and financial aid. “We are fortunate to have supporters and friends who understand how a Chicago education will impact the lives of these students, on campus, at home, and in the world,” said dean of the College John W. Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75. “We know others will be inspired to create more No Barriers opportunities.”

The gifts from the Kellers, the Harrises, Rubenstein, and the Neubauer Family Foundation are four of 217,068 gifts made by 102,105 donors who share their vision of an even greater University of Chicago. Together, they are helping UChicago realize—again—the ambition that has driven inquiry and impact since Harper and Rockefeller saw the boundless possibility in those empty fields 125 years ago.