In September 2011, Yale’s most prolific donors gathered in Sprague Memorial Hall to see digital mock-ups of Yale’s two new residential colleges — which at the time were just blueprints — as part of a celebration of the most successful capital campaign in the University’s history.
The manicured courtyards and spacious common rooms of the colleges that now line Prospect Street were enabled partly by funds raised through Yale Tomorrow, a seven-year fundraising effort that raised $3.88 billion under the leadership of former University President Richard Levin. The campaign’s gifts facilitated the construction of the Smilow Cancer Hospital, the founding of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the elimination of tuition for students at the School of Music.
“You can’t go five steps without seeing something that was funded through the campaign,” said Inge Reichenbach, a former vice president for development who coordinated Yale Tomorrow.
Now, University President Peter Salovey, who served first as Yale College dean and then as University provost during Yale Tomorrow, is preparing for the first capital campaign of his tenure — part of a larger pivot from a tumultuous two years spent dealing with campus controversy to the institutional priorities that will form the core of his campaign. The success of the Yale Tomorrow campaign offers lessons for Salovey as his administration works to establish central priorities for its own capital campaign, which is expected to begin in the next year or so.
The University’s next campaign would likely start in September with a two- to three-year quiet phase to gather seed money — a period during which the University persuades its highest-potential donors to commit to giving — followed by a five- to seven-year public phase, Salovey told the News.
TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
When planning for Yale Tomorrow began in late 2002, Levin already had a major fundraising effort under his belt. Building on a broad academic vision, he and the vice president for development solicited ideas for institutional priorities from Yale’s academic units, whose leaders returned a ranked “wish list” to Levin and the Office of Development.
At the time, Yale was in the midst of a comprehensive facilities project to renovate over three quarters of all the buildings on campus, which had been “horribly maintained,” Levin recalled in an interview with the News. Between World War I and World War II, Yale invested heavily in facilities, but when Levin took over as president, the University had not completed any major renovations to buildings since their construction. When faculty leaders began planning the project in 1994, the electrical system of many of the residential colleges had been almost untouched since the 1920s and ’30s. And after the modernist boom later in the 20th century, unmaintained buildings, such as the Yale University Art Gallery and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, were nearly a half century old. The renovations of the dozens of buildings, more or less listed in order of importance, became a priority for Yale Tomorrow, Levin said.
Reichenbach arrived at Yale to develop the priority list in an internal feasibility study just a year before the campaign’s public launch in 2005. Ultimately, the University marketed the priorities by packaging them into four themes: the arts, sciences, Yale College and internationalization.
During the 27-month “silent phase,” Levin and the Development Office persuaded the University’s highest potential donors, including Yale Corporation members, to commit early to the campaign. By its public launch in September 2006, Yale had already raised $1.309 billion, more than one third of the $3 billion goal.
But shortly after Yale raised the campaign’s goal to $3.5 billion, its early success was cut short, as the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression began. According to Reichenbach, giving dropped significantly.
“The difficult thing was that it got worse and worse and nobody saw the bottom of it,” Reichenbach said. “Once things stabilized again, the campaign was able to pull out of it again. We had to adjust our strategy. We had to focus on fewer individuals who we thought were able to still give.”
Reichenbach stressed that Levin, who had as definite a vision for his campaign as he did for his presidency, held the reigns in negotiations with the highest-potential donors. Even as the economy shrank by 3.9 percent — the largest decline since World War II — Yale amassed a total of almost $400 million more than its goal by the campaign’s conclusion in 2011.
Levin emphasized that, as provost and dean of Yale College, Salovey has experience steering donors in the University’s direction.
“In truth, in today’s world, you are sort of in a permanent campaign,” Levin said. “The fundraising doesn’t slack off much from a campaign.”
MOTIF OF A PRESIDENCY
With almost 15 years of experience leading the University under his belt at the time of campaign’s public launch, Levin had a clear vision of the campaign’s overarching mission.
“[Levin] was very much involved in the priority setting,” Reichenbach said. “Because he had been there so long already and because he had really felt very strongly that this was the campaign that he wanted to do for the University, he was very engaged in those particular [goals].”
Internationalization, one of the campaign’s four buckets for donations, was a hallmark of the Levin presidency — a “cross-cutting motif,” as the former president called it.
“The internationalization of Yale was something that was probably a personal priority for the president. He saw it as an institutional priority, but he was personally very invested in it,” Reichenbach said.
In 2010, Yale founded the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs as a center for the teaching of contemporary global issues. Levin collaborated with leaders at the National University of Singapore to establish Yale-NUS College, a global school for liberal arts education. He also served as the founding chair of the Global University Leaders Forum and was one of the founding presidents of the International Alliance of Research Universities.
Still in the early days of his tenure, Salovey has yet to define the “motif” of his presidency.
“Rick Levin launched one campaign in his time as president. A lot of that campaign was the culmination of his presidency and it was far into his presidency,” said Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill. “He had a lot of years of working across what he saw as the goals for the institution.”
Unlike Levin, Salovey has opted to outsource much of the strategic planning to committees in the sciences, humanities and social sciences, many of which are new. While Levin’s institutional vision was the driving force behind Yale Tomorrow, Salovey’s institutional strategies will draw from the work done by the committees, tasked with exploring and formulating academic priorities.
“It is different than how we did the last campaign, but it’s not different than what most universities do,” O’Neill said. “One way to make sure that the goals feel that you have engaged your stakeholders and that they feel institutionally connected to what the goals are is to some kind of priority setting like this.”
Salovey said his academic priorities will ultimately translate into marketable fundraising goals for the campaign. The committees serve to clarify academic priorities, but the process of turning those into fundraising opportunities will occur next semester in an effort led by the Development Office. According to O’Neill, an external firm will lead the campaign’s branding and messaging.
As opposed to “Yale Tomorrow” or “… And for Yale” — Yale-centric named campaigns — O’Neill said she suspects the next campaign will be more “outward-facing,” representing Yale’s universal impact. She added that young donors often prefer to see the University’s external impact as opposed to just a “pull on nostalgia” when committing to gifts.
O’Neill emphasized that the campaign would not go public until it had garnered at least 40 percent of its target goal.
“To be campaign-ready is more than just clarifying your themes and setting your goals,” Salovey said. “But it also involves a lot of analytical work about how you are going to conduct your fundraising and building up of staff, … The purpose of the campaign is, among other things, to raise money for the academic priorities.”
Many in the University’s leadership team are fledgling administrators: Since 2015, Yale has appointed seven new vice presidents. At this moment of institutional turnover, Salovey has chartered committees across the University to identify institutional priorities in major areas of study.
In his letter to the community last November, Salovey noted that Yale’s sciences separate the University from other institutions that are higher in the global rankings. Salovey’s academic planning process began in earnest last January when he and University Provost Benjamin Polak chartered the University Science Strategy Committee to formulate a five- to 10-year plan with specific objectives to develop STEM at Yale.
But the concrete steps to enhance Yale’s science offerings — and help boost the University’s global ranking — still remain unclear. For Yale Tomorrow, efforts to improve the sciences translated into the development of West Campus, a marked expansion of Yale’s science programs.
In the fall, the University tasked Dean of Humanities Amy Hungerford with establishing a committee to explore and formulate long-term priorities for the humanities at Yale. And Vice President for Global Strategy and Vice Provost for International Affairs Pericles Lewis will soon present a report of a broad strategic plan for international initiatives moving forward.
“The president has designated a set of priorities going forward, but the details of that have to be worked out with committees that involve faculty because it involves the whole University,” Lewis said. “So they’ll feed back to the president, these are the things that we think are important, and he’ll fit that into his broad strategic plan for the coming years.”
According to Salovey, a pre-existing arts area council has already identified facilities needs and priorities for the arts. But Yale’s drama offerings still require a unifying location on campus as well as a theater with modernized technology, Salovey said. Beyond the work of the council, administrators have informally met with deans about connecting arts with the rest of campus and hiring faculty members in the arts who can teach in Yale’s other academic units.
Compared to the sciences and humanities, the University’s arts planning is in a later stage of development, Salovey said, noting that, besides drama, virtually every other part of the arts has a facility built with funds from Yale Tomorrow.
Over the past year, Salovey has toyed with the idea of public policy research as a theme for the next capital campaign, along with bolstering the sciences or building new connections between Yale’s art schools. In an interview with the News last March, Salovey said he has considered founding a new professional school akin to the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University or the Kennedy School at Harvard University.
And in recent months, public policy research has emerged as one element of Salovey’s still-nascent academic vision. When he wrote to the Yale community about institutional priorities and academic investments, Salovey cited the application of empirical social science to public policy as a way to engage “in the great debates of [the University’s] era.”
A committee at the Jackson Institute, chaired by School of Management professor Judy Chevalier, has been tasked with formulating future plans for the program, as well as determining how the institute’s focus relates to public policy research, Salovey told the News. At the next stage, Alan Gerber ’86, Yale’s director of social sciences, will continue to gather input and identify priorities for developing Yale’s public policy research.
“One of his particular priorities was the application of empirical social science to public policy problems and questions to the issues of today,” Gerber said. “It’s something [departments] are keeping in mind as they formulate their plans going forward.”
Ultimately, Salovey’s academic priorities will be presented to the trustees of the Yale Corporation for their feedback, and a development and alumni affairs subcommittee will examine campaign goals.
“We’re kind of a sounding board. We give [Salovey] our thoughts on it,” said Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Donna Dubinsky ’77, citing the diverse areas of expertise across the Corporation. “It’s important to get these views.”
The Yale Tomorrow campaign garnered more than 110,000 contributors.
Hailey Fuchs | firstname.lastname@example.org