The University of St. Thomas this fall concluded the most successful fund-raising campaign of any private institution of higher education in Minnesota history.
Gifts and commitments totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars, or $260,143,435, have been generated in the St. Thomas: Ever Press Forward campaign, said the Rev. Dennis Dease, president.
The campaign officially closed Sept. 21. He said, however, St. Thomas will continue to accept gifts from benefactors who are still finalizing their commitments. St. Thomas also will continue fund raising for its new law school, which opened in August.
The record fund-raising drive was launched five years ago with a goal of $120 million. The total to date is 216 percent of the original goal.
"The goals of the campaign reflect our desire to improve our ability to educate students and serve this community," Dease said. "This campaign has genuinely transformed the University of St. Thomas, taking us to a new level of quality and service."
A measure of the transformation, he said, was St. Thomas’ recent reclassification by U.S. News and World Report in its annual "America’s Best College’s" survey. Previously, St. Thomas had been listed in the Midwest Regional Universities category. This year the magazine placed St. Thomas in the National Universities Doctoral category where it was listed in the second of four tiers. Other institutions in the second tier include the University of Minnesota and several respected Catholic universities that include Fordham, Loyola in Chicago, Seton Hall and the Catholic University of America.
Co-chairs of the "Ever Press Forward" campaign were Mary and Gene Frey. Gene Frey, a member of the university’s board of trustees, was chairman and CEO of the Waldorf Corp. Quentin Hietpas, senior vice president emeritus at St. Thomas and a 1953 graduate, was director of the campaign.
Hietpas reported that the $260 million raised in Ever Press Forward was more than the combined total of all previous St. Thomas campaigns. The university’s Century II campaign, which ended in 1991, raised $83.1 million, more than twice the original $35 million goal. St. Thomas also raised $20.1 million in its Priorities for the ’80s campaign in the late 1970s, and $6.3 million in its Program for Great Teaching in the early 1960s.
Hietpas also reported that 24,387 benefactors contributed to the Ever Press Forward campaign, compared to the 13,573 who contributed to the previous campaign. Those 24,387 benefactors include 22,724 individuals, 942 corporations, 402 foundations and 319 other organizations.
The largest single gift was $50 million from Richard M. Schulze, founder and CEO of Best Buy Corp., and his late wife, Sandra. The gift was the largest ever reported by a college or university in Minnesota.
A major goal of the campaign was to build the university’s endowment for scholarships, professorships and educational programs. These are invested funds that will support students and faculty for generations to come.
The campaign raised a total of $131.7 million in gifts and pledges for new endowment. As a result of the campaign and investment growth, the university’s total endowment and other investments grew from $122 million in 1991 to $295 million this year, excluding pledges.
A total of $34.4 million was raised for scholarships. "Our goal was that St. Thomas would never have to turn away any qualified student for lack of resources," Dease said. "This was our first priority and largest financial goal.
The campaign also raised $26.2 million for endowed professorships. The invested funds will permanently support 12 new professorships in Catholic studies, entrepreneurship (two), family enterprise, finance, global marketing, global technology management, health policy, legal studies, management education, management practice and real estate.
The university now has 20 professorships, or endowed chairs as they are sometimes called.
Also as a result of the campaign, the university constructed, renovated or began planning for nine buildings and one new campus.
On the St. Paul campus, it opened the Frey Science and Engineering Center with its O’Shaughnessy and Owens science halls, and Koch Commons, a gathering place for resident students. It renovated the former Albertus Magnus science building on Summit Avenue and renamed it the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts. It also renovated the Florance Chapel for worship, and began planning a new undergraduate business building.
On the Minneapolis campus, the university opened Opus Hall, the headquarters for the St. Thomas School of Education. In the spring, St. Thomas will break ground for its new School of Law building.
In Rome the university opened its Bernardi campus, just a short walk from the Vatican.
Following are the amounts raised for key components of the campaign.
The final total of the campaign was announced by Dease at a celebration dinner and program Friday, Sept. 21, on the university’s St. Paul campus.
Master of ceremonies for the evening was Burton Cohen, a trustee of St. Thomas and publisher of Mpls. St. Paul magazine; the keynote speaker was William Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Several awards were presented. Gene and Mary Frey each received honorary degrees for their work on the campaign and for their many years of community service and philanthropy. Hietpas, retiring after nearly 18 years as the university’s senior vice president for external affairs, received a Distinguished Service Award. The two campaigns he directed raised more than a third of a billion dollars for St. Thomas. Schulze was named to the Papal Order of St. Gregory for his service to the church and Catholic higher education.
The campaign’s title, St. Thomas: Ever Press Forward, comes from an 1889 speech by the university’s founder, Archbishop John Ireland: "I seek no backward voyage across the sea of time; I will ever press forward. I believe that God intends the present to be better than the past, and the future to be better than the present."
Speaking at the Sept. 21 campaign celebration, Dease noted that St. Thomas comes from humble origins:
"It grew up on the Finn farm between the villages of St. Paul and Minneapolis long before anyone ever thought of us as a metropolis.
"Those humble origins blessed us with a fundamental value that continues to shape everything that we do," he said. "As a Catholic institution we believe that the purpose of an education is not simply one’s own self-improvement. On the contrary, we believe that the purpose of an education is to enhance the kind of contribution one can make to society.
"Yes, our university grew up on the farm. And, just as the farm changed, so has St. Thomas changed. Only 25 years ago we were a small, Catholic men’s college with … at times … precarious finances. Only 10 years ago, as we became a university, we were in many ways still testing our wings.
"Today, St. Thomas is a sophisticated, complex, coeducational, Catholic university. It has become by far the largest private university in this region, and one of the largest Catholic universities in the United States.
"But, as we have grown into this complex urban university we have not become an ivory tower.
"We continue to provide access to higher education for young people who are the first in their families to attend college, and to students who cannot pay the cost of our services.
"We continue to focus on the application of theory, on the practical, and on teaching the means to be of service.
"We became a national university," Dease said at the end of his remarks, "without leaving the farm."