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Gifts of a lifetime

Midway through an enormous fund-raising campaign, UCSD has tens of millions of benefactor dollars flowing in to help it fulfill its mission of research and education.

Private donations have always been integral in supplementing the university’s programs. But, giving has taken on a whole new meaning and dimension in these fiscally austere times, as California’s budget paring knife continues to cut ever more deeply into higher education.

Philanthropy is no longer a nicety, it’s a necessity, said Sarah West, UCSD’s associate vice chancellor for university development.

“Historically, public colleges have become more and more focused on seeing private philanthropy as a critical factor in attaining excellence,” she said. “As a public institution, we tend to look at private philanthropy as enhancement. But what private philanthropy really is about is maintaining excellence.”

Jim Langley, UCSD’s vice chancellor for external relations, agrees.

“Private donors are the difference between a good university and a great university,” he said. “Private donations allow us to create new, innovative programs, launch bold initiatives and maintain a higher level of competency. Private funds are also critically important in attracting the very best talent, whether it’s researchers, faculty or administrators.”

The UC San Diego Foundation is a separate nonprofit corporation, formed in 1972, to promote the educational and research purposes of UCSD. Governed by an independent board of directors, the foundation generates charitable donations and manages a diverse portfolio of stocks and bonds, artwork, commercial and residential real property, trusts and cash. The foundation’s total assets are nearly $350 million.

As of April 15, 2004, UCSD’s fund-raising campaign, “The Campaign for UCSD: Imagine What’s Next,” had collected $592 million, 60 percent of its targeted long-term goal of securing $1 billion in private funding, gifts and pledges. The fund-raising campaign started in July 2000 and will conclude in June 2007.

Gifts to the university are tax deductible and may be unrestricted in use, or can be designated to a particular use. Unrestricted gifts can be used in the area of greatest need, providing UCSD the flexibility it needs to pursue various projects.

UCSD’s fund-raising campaign seeks to help secure the university’s future by providing a way for alumni, parents and friends to make a lasting contribution and be an integral part of UCSD’s next chapter of growth.

“We are truly fortunate that so many alumni and community members are making the decision to support UCSD’s campaign,” said Chancellor Marsha Chandler. “This campus was founded with strong community support, and likewise, our extended family will make this ambitious $1 billion goal attainable.”

The $1 billion campaign seeks a laundry list of specific goals. A total of $100 million is sought for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and student-leadership and student-life initiatives that extend learning beyond the classroom. Another $100 million is necessary to support faculty though endowed chairs, visiting professorships, and recruitment and retention packages. To advance academics and launch inventive programs by creating new professional schools, expanding academic programs and implementing new initiatives that inspire scholarships will need a whopping $300 million.

Another $400 million is needed for research and health care, with vital funding for research endeavors across campus, health sciences advancements and clinical care initiatives. And $100 million is sought to respond to emerging opportunities and invest in areas of high potential.

Philanthropists such as Irwin Jacobs and John Moores get the most recognition for contributing to the university’s causes. Jacobs, Qualcomm’s co-founder, has given so much over the years that UCSD’s engineering school bears his name. Moores, majority owner of the San Diego Padres and regent of the University of California, and his wife Rebecca, have given $20 million - among the largest gifts ever received by UCSD - for cancer research.

The university will recognize Moores’ gift by naming its planned facility, a 270,000-square-foot building that will be the UCSD Cancer Center’s new home, after him. Plans are to unite more than 300 physicians, scientists and professional staff in one state-of-the-art clinical and research facility.

To date, UCSD has secured $47 million in private support to build the new cancer center facility for research, patient care and community service. The university’s overall goal is to secure $75 million to construct the facility and $25 million to support new clinical care initiatives.

UCSD Cancer Center ranks among the top centers in the nation conducting research and providing advanced patient care.

“Consolidating our cancer-related activities in a central location has been a priority for UCSD and is an important development for cancer care in the region, as well as for the advancement of scientific research which may impact people worldwide,” said Robert Dynes, immediate past UCSD chancellor. “We are deeply grateful to John and Becky Moores and Jerome and Miriam Katzin, for their vision and commitment to UCSD, and to the people of San Diego." 

Another high-profile UCSD facility, the Donald P. and Darlene V. Shiley Eye Center complex on the La Jolla campus near UCSD’s John M. and Sally B. Thornton Hospital, has also been the recipient of more than $13 million in private support. The university plans to build facilities for retinal and glaucoma research, as well as to expand space for clinical and educational programs. Numerous donors have pledged gifts ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 for the facility.

“This is an exciting time for the Shiley Eye Center,” said Dr. Stuart Brown, chair of the UCSD Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Shiley Eye Center. “The generosity of our benefactors, and the hard work of all those involved in this initiative, will enable us to expand our efforts to improve the prevention, diagnosis and care of eye injuries and vision disorders through basic and clinical research, advanced care, patient support and education.”

But it’s the lesser-known players, like UCSD alumnus Sheldon Engelhorn, a 1972 grad, whose low-key donations form the bedrock of the university’s private support.

Engelhorn parlayed his UCSD biology degree into a successful career. He and a friend later formed a small start-up company in San Diego selling products used in life science research.

“I always felt the university was instrumental in helping me become successful,” Engelhorn said. “I wanted to help out when I could. When my start-up merged with another local company, for the first time, I had the sort of funds to do something with.”

Initially, Engelhorn donated to the chancellor’s association fund, figuring UCSD’s administration would know best where the money needed to be spent.

“But as I became more involved,” he said, “the university asked me what my real interest was, so I could make more directed donations, for instance, being involved in scholarships because, in my experience, I had not had a scholarship. I felt a university education was a way to help level the playing field, being able to help out disadvantaged students who might come from backgrounds where college was not part of their family or cultural history.”

Philanthropy is part of Engelhorn’s personal mission.

“For me, it’s a sense of social responsibility,” he said. “In terms of larger, constructive things you can do with your life ... it’s giving back.”

There is a commonality among the university’s private benefactors.

“They’re different people from every political and religious persuasion,” said Engelhorn, “but they all have substantial funds at their disposal, and they all feel responsibility to help nudge society along in ways they think will improve things. People want to make sure whatever money they contribute goes to some cause that’s used effectively and gets results. I feel if I give money to them, they’ll use it wisely.”

A prime example of how private funds are spent at UCSD is The Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind, a new research center to explore the relationship of the brain’s cellular makeup and the resulting behaviors of the mind.

Funded through a $7.5 million endowment, The UCSD Kavli Institute’s members work together to address questions such as how genetics influence behavior, how brains repair themselves, the biochemical mechanisms of memory and the neural bases of learning, consciousness, memory and attention.

The Kavli Institute’s director, Jeffrey Elman, a professor of cognitive science and associate dean of the Division of Social Sciences, stressed that private donations are critical to furthering the university’s scientific research mission.

“There’s a temptation to misunderstand the urgency of the state cutting back on the university’s money,” Elman said. “We need to infill with private funds.”

Elman pointed out only about one-third of the university’s budget comes from the state.

“Those are crucial funds that go for faculty salaries and basic infrastructure to support instruction,” Elman said. “The other two-thirds of the money the university spends comes from two major kinds of sources: public money from grants and private money from foundations and individuals.”

UCSD has done a good job of raising private donations.

“We’re ranked between fifth and sixth nationally of all universities, public and private, in the amount of money we raise,” Elman said. “Traditional money funds traditional science. But increasingly, we’re coming up with problems requiring new types of collaborations, novel methodologies. Private funding allows for risk-taking, but with the potential of high gain."Elman cited Kavli as an example of how private funding has spurred public research.

“Five or six institutions on Torrey Pines Mesa have come together to create a consortium under the umbrella of the Kavli, the goal of which is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration,” he said. “That normally would not happen. With the benefit of private funds, scientists collaborating at Kavli can now take the human genome, which has been mapped, and figure out what that genetic coding all means. Private money allows us to ask questions we would not otherwise be able to ask to create reforms of research that, hopefully, will lead to breakthroughs, which would not have been possible through traditional funding models for research.”

Elman said the United States is unique in its tradition of philanthropy supporting science.

“That is not found on the scale that we find it here in any other country,” he said. “I think it’s been a significant factor in leading to the spectacular success of American science.”

Besides maintaining excellence, private philanthropy allows public universities like UCSD the flexibility to keep pace with rapidly changing times.

“Private philanthropy enables an institution like UCSD to be nimble, to be innovative, to respond to a changing marketplace,” said Vice Chancellor West. “We launched a new school of management last year at UCSD. We could not have done that without private philanthropy and the support of the community.”

West said that those donating to the university’s scientific research programs could stand to benefit from future breakthroughs.

“Donors making a gift to medical research are making it possible for generations of people to have significant advances in health care and quality of life,” she said. “It’s really a contribution to the greater good for humankind.”

Private funds also enable UCSD to help the regional economy, noted Langley. He said the funds are critical to coping with the demands of growth; an additional 10,000 students expected to come to UCSD over the next decade, including the hiring of 500 faculty members.

The expansion of the university directly ties into the health of the region as a whole.

“Properly managed, this growth will accelerate the economic and cultural development of San Diego,” said Langley. “We’re not saying, as we go, so goes San Diego. But to the extent that you give to us, we’ll attract more talent and more outside support, and we’ll make this a better place to live.”

Langley added UCSD has an extensive wish list crying out for private support. Topping that list is funding to lure the most talented teachers and scientists to the university. Also fairly high on the list is a new school of management for UCSD to house a master’s program.

“We’re hoping San Diego realizes that every time we launch a new school, it’s a revenue generator, a fuel pump for the economy,” said Langley.

But Langley acknowledged the university, too, shares responsibility in ensuring private funds are spent wisely.

“It is a great moral weight in accepting a gift, to live up to the promises that you made. We have delivered on those promises.”