One day in November 2007, total pledges and gifts to the Knowledge is Power capital campaign passed $1.6 billion. Owing to the customary flow of business and the pressures of fall travel for Bob Sweeney and his staff, that day came and went without notice, but the day and the number mark milestones that point the way to our University’s future.
The $1.6 billion and that lost day in November are as close as we will come to noting the halfway point of this $3 billion campaign, which began on January 1, 2004, and will conclude on December 31, 2011. We are now beyond midway in terms of dollars and time currently budgeted for the campaign. The event marks the uncommon, not-long-ago unimaginable quality of work done by Gordon Rainey (Col ’62, Law ’67) and his colleagues on the Campaign Executive Committee; by Everette Doffermyre (Col ’70, Law ’73) and his colleagues on the National Committee on University Resources (NCOUR) whose volunteers have literally been everywhere working to make the campaign successful; by John Nau III (Col ’68), who leads our Council of Foundations; by hundreds of other volunteers, all supported by Bob Sweeney; by our deans and others who head units; by Tim Garson and Leonard Sandridge; and by many others. It signals the sense of common purpose that has led more than 100,000 of us to make gifts.
I am writing this on a Monday following the weekend during which Gordon, Everette, and John led their committees through both the quietly intense celebration that major accomplishments generally receive here—everyone who has taken part knows what she or he has done; no one is pretending that this is not a big deal—even as they began planning the goals and the work for the second half of this effort.
Our second half is actually well begun. The Development Office does not yet have audited numbers for December 2007, but we know that at least $40 million came to the University during that month, and January has been active. The women and men who came for the CEC/NCOUR/COF weekend knew as we worked together on goals for the second half that we will succeed in the end. From experience, they knew also that hard work, deliberate thinking and reasoning, and high goals together are the reasons for whatever successes we have experienced so far.
Rethinking the campaign during the last several weeks, several recognitions have occurred to all of us: that major achievements result from work, not from over-confidence; that the second half is the more important half because it brings us to the big ideas, the new opportunities and challenges for students and for faculty members, that the campaign enables; that the stakes are high. As we complete the work that lies ahead of us now, we will move beyond the buildings and physical projects of the first half and into the core of what the University was designed to do, which is to say empower change and ensure personal freedom and the resulting good health of the Commonwealth and the Republic.
Three themes, recommendations of the planning commission that Tim Garson and Leonard Sandridge have led to support the work done by a special committee of the Board of Visitors, anchored the weekend’s work: First, the concept of a “public track” or “Jefferson track” open to all undergraduate students as a means to teach citizenship and citizen leadership by having students perform meaningful public service during the year following completion of major requirements, thus earning a special endorsement on their diplomas and gaining the early experience of putting what they have learned to work for the public good; second, the rapid development of what has come to be called “translational research” as the time and distance from laboratory experimentation to real-life application has shrunk and research products have become fundamental to everything we do, from devising new applications for virtual reality to enabling early, effective treatments for cancer, diabetes, and dozens of other diseases; third, the importance of transforming the University into a center for discovery, study, and service on a global scale, to equip students for success in the global economy.
Each of these issues, these big ideas, defines a major theme for the University’s future. Each involves major commitments. All three focus on how and what students learn here, and what they make of that learning in their lives after they leave. In one sense or another, all of them relate to commitments made during the first half of the campaign—to Frank Batten’s gift creating the Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, for example. Individually and together, these ideas energize people who know UVA, and stand for what the University itself stands. What we learned during the weekend’s work is that these big ideas unify us because they define what we believe is the University’s inevitable and indispensable future.
These ideas open the prospect also of support beyond what comes from our traditional resources—gifts from alumni, parents of our students, and other individual persons who know what faculty members and students do here and want to support it. Corporate donors and foundations take keen interest in the new applications of digital technology that have developed here. For a sample, visit www.romereborn.virginia.edu, and enjoy the virtual reconstruction of Ancient Rome’s Forum—one consequence of a decade of archaeological research and digital innovation led by Art History and Classics professor Bernie Frischer, who leads the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.
As we move now to find resources for these new initiatives, one theme that recurred during the weekend’s work echoes in my own ears—the concept of useful knowledge or useful science (both Jefferson’s terms) as a definer of value in American universities. Faculty members and alumni have given us by their diligence reputations for excellence in dozens of fields. Generations of students who have built this culture of honor, mutual respect, appreciation for excellence, and hard work have given us an environment that attracts youth from all parts to come here, drink the cup of knowledge, and (Jefferson’s phrase again) fraternize with us. In every important way, this is our time.
Coming months will bring more hard work as we refine the case that has to be made for the University in these terms, as we collect the information the Campaign Executive Committee and the Board of Visitors will need to determine whether and when to increase the target as these concepts take hold. With our volunteers and leadership, I share the sense of excitement that comes of reaching the top of a high mountain, and like that stout Cortez who lived in Keats’ imagination, staring off into the future. These next steps will be the most exciting of all.