Named the Campaign for the future, the largest fund-raising drive in MIT's history had an original goal of $550 million. However, Institute administrators increased the funding target in 1990 after realizing the original goal would be met nearly two years before the campaign's scheduled completion.
The total of gifts and pledges raised from individuals, corporations and foundations when the campaign officially ended June 30 was $710 million, exceeding slightly even the expanded goal.
Charles M. Vest, president of MIT, said that announcing the campaign's successful outcome was particularly satisfying in view of several potential accidents of timing. The drive not only spanned one of the worst recessions in memory, but its official kickoff celebration was held just three days after the stock market crash of October 1987. The elevation of the goal to $700 million two years ago was followed shortly by the start of the Persian Gulf War, which quickly depressed stock prices.
MIT Corporation Chairman Paul E. Gray, who was president of the Institute when the campaign began, said the initial $550 million goal was set after a careful sorting-through by the Institute's academic leadership of pressing needs that totalled more than $1 billion.
Unlike many institutions' campaigns, which center around major construction projects, the Campaign for the future was not aimed at buying bricks and mortar, but at enhancing support for people and programs.
Apparently such an approach captured the interest of potential donors, for some 55 percent of MIT's alumni-about 40,000 people-made commitments during the campaign, while the level of annual giving to MIT nearly doubled.
A large share of the funds raised by the campaign will be used to boost the university's endowment-that is, the money that the Institute invests to generate income for support of future activities. At the campaign's end, MIT's endowment exceeds $1.61 billion, up by about one-third over pre-campaign levels.
Of the $702 million raised, some $133 million is for unrestricted purposes. Such gifts, according to MIT Treasurer Glenn P. Strehle, the Institute's chief fund-raising officer, signal great faith in MIT on the part of donors. By relinquishing control of how their dollars are spent, he said, contributors wisely provide MIT with a built-in flexibility to meet the shifting research and teaching needs of the 21st century.
Setting the pace for the drive were $100 million in contributions, many of them at the $1.5 million level or higher, to endow faculty chairs. In addition, the campaign engendered $116 million in student support; around $335 million for academic programs, and $18 million for facilities.
MIT Provost Mark Wrighton, who himself holds the endowed Ciba-Geigy professorship in chemistry, said that, by relieving the pressure on faculty members to raise portions of their own salaries through research contracts, the creation of such chairs provides educators greater opportunity to interact with and nurture undergraduate students.
In addition, Professor Wrighton said, the availability of research funds that accompany such chairs makes it possible for professors to pursue offbeat research ideas that may have great importance to the future of science, but might not seem glamorous enough now to attract outside funding.
Endowment for scholarship support is also of extreme importance at MIT, because earnings from that source save the Institute from having to divert dollars from the general operating budget to maintain its well-known policy of assuring talented students at any income level the opportunity to enroll.
One reason the spirit of celebration permeated the MIT campus, Mr. Strehle said, was the sense that the campaign was a community-wide effort involving not only the work of a professional fund-raising staff, but also long hours of volunteer labor by alumni, students and others.
The realization of the augmented five-year goal also reflected major commitments of time and energy by faculty members. Meeting with thousands of alumni and friends of MIT both during campus visits and at various campaign-related events across the nation, they explained their research and teaching agendas, talked about the perplexing challenges being laid at the feet of academe by recent political, social, economic, medical and environmental developments nationally and internationally, and kindled interest in MIT's capacity to help society. In all, Mr. Strehle said, at least one-quarter of the MIT faculty, from young professors in their first professional positions to academic superstars of international repute, were actively involved in the drive.
"I suppose the most important thing to say about the Campaign for the future," said Dr. Gray, "is that we have managed over the past five years to educate a good number of individuals and organizations about the importance of supporting institutions like MIT, and to raise their sights about the appropriate level of giving."
A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 1).