Alumni Fund Director Joseph Collins was quick to capitalize on the convergence of a summer heat wave and a record-setting fundraising season as he welcomed an upbeat group to the MIT Faculty Club on July 15.
"Welcome, everyone, on this hottest of days in the hottest of Alumni Fund years," he declared as those gathered enjoyed cool sliced fruit, chocolate-covered strawberries and iced drinks. "We made it!"
"It" was the Alumni Fund's five-year goal of raising between $115 million and $120 million from 1992-97. The final amount raised was actually $114.78 million, which, "rounded in proper MIT fashion," is $115 million, Mr. Collins said.
The Alumni Fund's success was all the sweeter, said Mr. Collins, because it triumphed over two disappointing years. In particular, 1993, the year of a major stock market correction, "was so dismal, the staff held a wake," he quipped. But it was all up from there.
President Charles M. Vest (like Mr. Collins, an honorary member of the MIT Association of Alumni and Alumnae), also spoke at the celebration. Tucking a sheaf of papers into his coat, he said, "Actually, Joe wrote my comments for me, and it's two whole pages of statistics. But numbers are only representative. What's interesting in these statistics is the fact that it looks like the best predictor of the US stock market is the MIT Alumni Fund. And the MIT fund is so strong because MIT people are so strong."
Referring to an elaborately frosted sheet cake at the back of the room -- the top, bearing the message "Spectacular Success FY97 Alumni Fund $26.6 million," with a brilliant rainbow above the words -- President Vest remarked, "We'll need far-infrared and ultraviolet icing to celebrate a greater year next year."
Others at the gathering included Barbara Stowe, vice president for resource development and honorary member of the Alumni Association; Glenn Strehle (SB '58, SM), vice president for finance and treasurer; Allan Bufferd (SB '59, SM, ScD), deputy treasurer and director of investments; Greg Moore (SB '72), alumnus volunteer and member of the MIT Alumni Fund Board; L. Robert Johnson (SB '63), Corporation member and alumnus volunteer; Bonny Kellermann (SB '72), alumna volunteer and recording secretary of MIT; Jim McDonough (SB '43, SM), alumnus volunteer, and William Hecht (SB '61, SM), executive vice president of the Alumni Association.
Written reports to the Association's board of directors told the story in hard numbers.
The 1997 Alumni Fund set new records with $26.6 million received in gifts from 30,577 alumni. Led by chair Brian G.R. Hughes '77, the new dollar record eclipsed last year's total by $1.8 million.
"I'm particularly pleased with the response of alumni to our appeal for support of the Paul E. Gray '54 Endowed UROP Fund," said Mr. Hughes. "In the space of a few months, some 2,000 alumni/ae and friends raised more than $2.3 million for this fund, established to honor Paul Gray, who stepped down in June as chairman of the MIT Corporation."
Other highlights of the year's successes:
- A record number of alumni/ae made donations this year. With 30,577 alumni/ae contributors, the Fund showed growth for the fourth straight year, starting with 27,000 donors in fiscal 1993.
- The three major reunion gift classes of 1947, 1957 and 1972 all set new records for their respective anniversary years in leading the 13 quinquennial reunion classes plus the Class of 1997 to an unprecedented total of $56.5 million, as reported at the Technology Day luncheon.
- Alumni/ae who received graduate degrees at MIT continued to set records with a total of 11,001 donors, with a median first-time gift of $100. The graduate alumni/ae participation rate was 31 percent.
- 57 percent of those who received their undergraduate degrees at MIT gave $100 or more, with 44 percent participating.
- Corporate matching gifts reached $1.7 million, the highest total in five years.
- Non-alumni parents' gifts credited to the Alumni Fund were nearly $400,000.
MIT fundraisers face a challenge which others in their field may not, making the 1997 success especially impressive.
"Our job is quite different from other elite institutions. Only 10 percent of our students come from inherited wealth -- it's not like we're prospecting in a diamond mine," Mr. Hecht said. "We know you don't have to be rich to go here -- just awfully good. And we can't predict what you'll do when you leave here, either. We don't know if you'll found DEC [Digital Equipment Corp., founded by Ken Olsen, SB '50] or be simply unable to help us. We believe in broad-based support and in getting everyone into the game. And for this year, it all worked."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 13, 1997.