Students hoping to study science, travel abroad on Yale’s tab, or move into a renovated Silliman College are getting a little help from hefty alumni donations, including three of the most substantial gifts in the University’s history.

Yale fund-raisers raised at least $400 million and raked in some of the largest gifts in its history this year as the development office prepares for a major capital campaign set to begin sometime in 2006, said Yale President Richard Levin, who would not disclose the exact amount raised or the donors’ names. Of the three largest gifts secured for Yale are one each providing funding for a new science building, international programs, and the arts.

“We have some very substantial gifts,” said Levin, who was personally involved in securing many of this year’s major donations. “They’ll be announced in due course.”

The University also secured a major gift for Silliman College — scheduled for renovation next year — and is close to securing a major gift for Trumbull College, which is currently undergoing renovations without a lead donor, Associate Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said.

While the University has not yet released the amount given for Silliman or its donor’s name, the gift will call for the renaming of a Silliman landmark, such as a courtyard or dining hall, Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said.

“We want to recognize the donor in a significant way,” Reichenbach said, who arrived at Yale this summer after holding a similar position at Cornell University.

The Silliman donation will significantly defray costs but will not affect the actual renovations because the University begins the college renovations — donor or not — by drawing from its $350 million capital budget.

“We start the planning two or three years before we begin construction on these projects, so if you don’t hit the gift target you wanted, you’re not going to not do the project,” said Lloyd Suttle, Yale’s deputy provost for undergraduate and graduate programs.

Fund raising for Davenport College is also ongoing, even though the college was renovated last year. The University is now trying to raise money for the college through an $8 million challenge led by four donors, but have not decided whether to propose similar challenges for Trumbull or Silliman, O’Neill said.

Although donations continue to roll in, the University is still not garnering as much support from alumni for college renovations, which can cost close to $50 million, as it did when it renovated the first college, Berkeley, in 1998. At the time, Yale fund-raisers set a $20 million fund-raising goal for each college, but have had less success reaching that threshold in recent years. Securing major gifts for residential colleges can be more difficult because the gifts do not come with major naming opportunities, Levin said.

“There’s a lot of sentimental attachment to the colleges, but it’s true, you can’t name the whole building, maybe just a dining hall or a plaque,” he said.

During the ongoing “quiet phase” of the upcoming campaign, Levin and other fund-raisers work to secure major gifts from top donors in order to open the public aspect of the campaign with as much money as possible. Levin declined to release the total amount of money raised last year during this period so as not to take the “drama” out of the campaign’s official announcement, but he has said the capital campaign could net as much as $1 billion to fund various projects throughout the University including college renovations, construction on Science Hill, financial aid and implementation of the 2003 academic review. While early fund-raising for the campaign has been successful in many areas, donors have shown a particular interest in Yale College, O’Neill said.

For his part, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey has begun spending a few days each month in cities throughout the United States with Yale alumni and parents trying to secure hefty donations. Science and quantitative reasoning programs recommended in the review have been funded substantially by donors, he said.

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