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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Making History

We Are UTSA—A Top-Tier Campaign

One hundred and twenty million dollars could buy 315 Lamborghini Aventadors, which sell for almost $381,000 apiece. It could buy a brand-new 64–gig-iPad for every one of the 129,877 residents in the South Texas city of McAllen—with some left over.

Or it could provide 2,000 students like Dan Rossiter—a computer science major with a 3.9 GPA—a full ride at UTSA. The money could also be used to underwrite 120 endowed chairs like the one held by College of Engineering Dean Mauli Agrawal, a leader in his field.

UTSA officials are hoping the funds will secure scholarships, endowed chairs and much more.

In April, UTSA made history by embarking on the first capital campaign in the university's 43 years.

The goal is lofty: to raise $120 million by 2015 to fund scholarships, aid faculty research, support new institutes and centers, and enrich the student experience. Officials went public with the campaign after reaching more than 78 percent of the goal.

First came a $2.5 million gift from Valero Energy Foundation for graduate student research support. That was matched in full by the Texas Research Incentive Program, resulting in one of the university’s largest corporate gifts.

Then came a mega–microscope. With $1.2 million from the Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, UTSA acquired the world’s most powerful microscope, which can magnify objects 20 million times their original size.

"We are UTSA—A Top-Tier Campaign is about people and ensuring strong futures for them. One hundred and twenty million dollars will bring greater opportunity to UTSA and South Texas. The campaign is providing a foundation of support that will continue the university's dynamic progress and ensure that excellence and innovation thrive here."

- UTSA President Ricardo Romo

"I knew we were on our way," said Marjie French, vice president for university advancement. "The Kleberg gift...gave us momentum. It gave us a shot in the arm and we could say people really believe in us. They want to invest in us in a big way."

But it was a surprise gift from the estate of a retired schoolteacher, Mary E. McKinney, that provided the biggest boost—up to $28 million for student scholarships.

"This gift has already begun transforming students’ lives," French said.

When UTSA embarked on the path to becoming a Tier One university, joining elite research institutions in the country, it became apparent that more support would be needed. At the same time, state funding continued to slump even as operating costs increased.

"There has been a steady decline in state funding going on for about 20 or 30 years now," said Provost John Frederick. About 28 percent of the university’s more than $400 million budget is funded through state appropriation. "So when you see a decline in state support and an increase in real expenses, the only place you can make that up without help is by raising student tuition and fees.

We Are UTSA—A Top-Tier Campaign publicly launched on April 12 to a surprise fireworks display.

Scholarship recipients, carrying LED lights, formed a procession at the formal launch of the capital campaign on April 13. The lights were provided by GreenStar LED, which gives $10 to UTSA for every light fixture sold.

Mayor Julián Castro's goal is that 80 percent of local young adults will be enrolled in a four-year university, a two-year college or a technical program by 2020.

"But we are fully understanding of the quandary it puts our students in in an economy that is struggling to come out of a recession. We know that families of students are struggling to make those ends meet and struggling to meet the cost of higher education."

So French and her team came up with a plan. University officials identified where money was needed most and set a goal of raising $120 million. After extensive research, they determined that the majority of the funds would go to attracting and retaining outstanding faculty; offering more undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships; establishing and supporting more centers, institutes and programs; and enhancing student life.

Almost every gift donated to the university since 2009 has gone toward the capital campaign, and that will continue until 2015. Donors can decide where their money will go.

"Our job is to match the donor’s interest with what we’ve identified as key strategic needs," French said. "Because if we planned a fundraising program within a vacuum, at the end of the day, we wouldn’t be creating the kind of impact we need to have to achieve our goals."

Campaign chair Jim Bodenstedt ’96 said the effort is a chance to create a strong university support network, build a culture of philanthropy and share the impact with the community.

"People need to know the long-importance of the campaign to students and the community by what’s learned and later accomplished by the people who attend school here," he said. "Sixty to 70 percent of students who graduate from UTSA stay in the community and continue to contribute. We know they’re not only helping for today, but they’re helping for tomorrow."

At the campaign’s end, UTSA will look more like a Tier One university, with even more faculty members who are leaders in their fields as well as equipment and facilities to better support cutting-edge research. And more students will get the financial support they need to have access to the best the university can offer.

"So I think the role a capital campaign can play is to help those students achieve their dreams of education by relieving a little bit of the extra strain that our costs might put on them," Frederick said. "The difficulty in any kind of economic recession is [that] resources dry up but our needs don’t. This is an area where I think our friends in the community really make a huge difference."

"People need to know the long-term importance of the campaign...60 to 70 percent of students who graduate from UTSA stay in the community and continue to contribute."

- Campaign chair,
Jim Bodenstedt '96

And with the birth of UTSA football, a growing alumni base that now exceeds 88,000, and steady student enrollment, UTSA is becoming San Antonio’s university, French said.

"The community wants us to be very, very good because we’re transforming a lot of lives," she said.

But, Bodenstedt added, there is still more to do.

"Historically we haven’t invested as much as a community in UTSA as we should," he said. "It’s time that we do. Our future depends on it."

–Lety Laurel

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