Despite sour economy, alums keep on giving

Stagnant economic growth didn’t keep Yalies from writing checks to their alma mater this year, as the tercentennial celebration helped bring fund-raising totals to new heights.

The bearish stock market may have hurt investors, but fiscal year 2001 was a tremendous success for Yale’s development office, Vice President for Development Charles Pagnam said. While cash gifts — outright donations and pledge payments — took a slight dip to $351 million from $358 million the year before, donations swelled in the “new activity” category. New activity — which includes outright gifts and new pledges — reached $425 million, up from $355 million in fiscal year 2000.

Yale ranks first in the amount of money alumni donate to the school and fifth in the participation rate of graduates giving back among other major universities.

The record-breaking totals were due in part to the Fourth Century Initiative, a campaign launched in January 2000 targeted to 20,000 wealthy and historically generous alumni. Yale sent each of these alumni a glossy booklet detailing goals for the University’s next century.

After the campaign concludes in December, the University will honor donors of gifts totaling $300,000 or more by displaying their names in a prominent location on campus. Administrators asked Vietnam Veterans Memorial architect Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 to create a structure to honor these donors, but she declined and opted instead to help the University choose a location to carve names.

Although the Tercentennial will conclude in October and the campaign will end in December, Pagnam said he is not worried that donations will suffer.

“I believe there are a significant number of alumni who have not been identified yet and some who just have not been reached out to for long enough,” Pagnam said. He added that his office has spent the last 16 months ranking alumni by giving capacity in hopes of tapping new resources.

Financial aid and science initiatives continue to attract many donors, Pagnam said.

But declining interest in the residential reconstruction projects has caused some concern. Timothy Dwight College, the fourth residential college to be overhauled, did not receive a lead gift for its renovation but is undergoing construction this year anyway.

Vanderbilt Hall on Old Campus is scheduled for a facelift next year, but administrators said raising money for a dorm that few alumni have deep attachment to will likely be difficult. Because it was the building used to house the first women admitted to Yale, Pagnam said Yale is considering a women’s donor drive to fund its renovation.

While the early segregation of women in Vanderbilt Hall might be a painful reminder to female alumni of the University’s long-standing gender bias, Pagnam said the fund-raising drive could be a success if pitched properly.

“I would love it,” said Stacey Keen ’75, a former Vanderbilt Hall resident. “It’s like any idea — some people will love it and some will hate it. But I’d definitely give to that.”

But no matter what turn the economy takes in the near future, officials are hopeful that Yale’s numbers will say high.

“I don’t have control over the economy,” Pagnam said. “But I do have control over the activity in this office.”

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