Levin initiates major campaign for fund raising

Yale President Richard Levin will begin this morning’s work day a long way from central campus. But he is not at his temporary office in Betts House at the top of Prospect Street. He is in Texas lassoing in big money.

Levin and other top administrators have grown increasingly involved in recent months with fund raising, jetting from city to city to encourage donations as the University pushes forward with a major capital campaign, which Levin has said could eventually net as much as $1 billion. The campaign, which will not officially begin until 2006, currently is in the “quiet” phase, a time for officials to draw in large gifts from a select group of donors whose donations officials hope will account for a large portion of the campaign’s ultimate sum.

Levin said he plans to spend at least 55 days away from New Haven to raise funds during this academic year, at least 20 of which he will spend in New York. Last month, while Yale officials who had joined Levin in India returned home to New Haven, Levin jetted to Singapore for a few days of fund-raising work. He made a similar fund-raising pit-stop in London last week on the way back to New Haven from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“I very much enjoy talking to people about Yale and what we are doing,” said Levin, who today will finish a two-day fund-raising swing through Texas. “It’s always gratifying because most of our donors are very supportive.”

The donors Yale officials are wining and dining in this so-called quiet phase of campaigning have been dubbed “principal prospects” by the development office, Acting Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said. These individuals have donated to the University in the past, already know Levin and are believed to have the ability to individually give $5 million or more to the University, although they may not all necessarily do so, she said.

“We’re targeting those who we think that the relationship is at the point where a gift conversation is the right thing,” O’Neill said.

The capital campaign will fund several University projects, including residential college renovations and implementation of the 2003 Yale College academic review, Levin said. Yale officials do not have any specific fund-raising goals for the campaign at this point, but they are hoping to raise as much as possible to build momentum before officially launching the public aspect of the campaign in 2006.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he has become more involved over the past couple of months with fund-raising efforts to support the 2003 academic review. While fund-raising does not take up a majority of Salovey’s time, it has become one of his job’s ongoing duties, he said. But when he visits with potential donors later this week, Salovey said that he will not feel like a salesman.

“I’m discussing something I very much believe in, and I don’t feel like I’m selling something,” he said. “Rather, I’m representing my goals for Yale College, and that makes it enjoyable.”

While Levin travels frequently to New York to raise funds, he has managed to keep a low profile in the city, confining his visits to select, targeted donors. Yale Club of New York City President Michael Hennessy said he thinks the campaign is progressing well because of Levin’s popularity with the city’s alumni.

“I imagine it’s going pretty well, just by the support he enjoys from the community,” Hennessy said.

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