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Michigan State University

Feature: The Campaign for MSU Advancing Knowledge, Transforming Lives

Michigan State University artistic image

            MSU’s new, bold $1.2 billion capital campaign will help to vault the university well into the 21st century.

  • Nicholas V. Perricone wanted to do something special for MSU and let his “children see how satisfying it is to give something back.”  In September, he announced a $6 million gift to create a new division-level program in dermatology in MSU’s College of Human Medicine, where Nicholas received his medical degree.   This gift, notes President Peter McPherson, “will benefit CHM and MSU with its cutting-edge work while bringing needed clinical services to the entire mid-Michigan region.”
  • As a student, MSU Trustee Randall Pittman (see p. 4, Circle Drive) became friends with economics professor and president emeritus Walter Adams.  In September, Randall and his wife Mary pledged $6 million to honor Adams while restoring Marshall Hall, which houses the department of economics.  Their gift will fund the rehabilitation of the historic building, to be renamed Marshall-Adams Hall.  “When complete, the buildings will function as efficiently as new construction,” says Provost Lou Anna Simon, “but will do so in an envelope of tradition and historic character.”
  • MSU Trustee Dee Cook (see p. 4, Circle Drive) and husband Byron credit MSU with providing them with their education and with finding each other.  “The two greatest things to happen to me are my education and meeting Byron at MSU,” explains Dee.  To show their appreciation and their support for the arts at MSU, the Cooks pledged $1 million to MSU’s proposed new School of Music building so that the facilities reflect the quality of its faculty and students.
  • Lectra Systems Inc., a leading software developer in the apparel and textile industries, donated in September design software valued at more than $2 million to MSU’s College of Human Ecology.  The gift reflects how much the industry values the college’s apparel and textile design program.
  • Evelyn Bavin Bartoo does not have a degree from MSU, but over the years she developed strong connections to MSU through many pets that have enriched her life.  Her passion for animals, and subsequent bond with MSU veterinarians, led her to establish the Evelyn Bavin Bartoo Endowed Scholarship Fund in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Gary L. Seevers, renowned economist and financial market specialist and former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, credits his success to MSU, where he earned three degrees and was a charter member of Honors College.   Last fall, he gave $1 million towards the new Gordon and Norma Guyer and Gary L. Seevers Endowed Chair in natural resource conservation.  The chair in MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is now well on its way to become fully endowed at $3 million.

            All of these actions are passionate statements of commitment to MSU.  They reflect many, many similar sentiments, and the many different ways in which they can be expressed to support MSU.   Put together, each helps to fuel “The Campaign For MSU”—the university’s bold plan to sustain its heritage well into the 21st century.

            What is MSU’s heritage?  Founded in 1855 as the nation’s premier land-grant college, MSU has carved a unique niche in American educational history by “advancing knowledge and transforming lives,” especially among the so-called industrial classes.  MSU literally opened the door for every member of this democratic society to participate in higher education.  Thousands of productive citizens across the nation owe their success in part to the opportunities provided by the school on the banks of the Red Cedar.

            Thanks to many great leaders during its first sesquicentennial, MSU has grown into one of the world’s finest universities in teaching, research and outreach.  MSU is now poised to undertake yet another major transformation  that will preserve its achievements, core values and heritage, and to position itself as a national leader well into the millenium.

            MSU’s second, major comprehensive capital campaign kicked off Sept. 20 with a goal of $1.2 billion by 2007.  It will build on the momentum achieved by the previous major $160 million capital campaign, launched in 1988.  MSU plans to seek support across the breadth of its constituencies, including alumni, faculty, staff and friends, as well as corporations, foundations and associations.  The campaign is being spearheaded by deans and their volunteer boards, as well major administrative units. 

            MSU hopes to tap all those who wish to give back to the university, or who wish to see the university succeed.

            “The success of the capital campaign that begins here today will endow Michigan State University with the financial resources to realize a vision that honors the achievements of those who have come before us,” said President Peter McPherson at a ceremony Sept. 20 in Wharton Center to kick off the public phase of the campaign.  “It will equip us to anticipate the changing needs of our students and our world.”

            The theme of the campaign is “advancing knowledge and transforming lives,” a concept that Lou Anna K. Simon, MSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, well articulates:

            “The essence of our philosophy is to muster the best people available, provide them with a place to work together toward a common goal to ask questions, share insights and arrive at solutions together and place their knowledge at the service of humanity,” she explains.  “This approach allows us to inform, enlighten and challenge our students and the others we serve, and then through them, make a positive difference in the world.

            “This is what we mean when we talk of advancing knowledge and transforming lives.  It is exactly what we do at Michigan State University.”

            One very basic campaign objective is to substantially increase MSU’s endowment, which, as McPherson noted, “fortify the long-term integrity and stability of the university’s endeavors.”  Endowed chairs and scholarships are important pillars to longterm MSU success.

            Last year MSU’s endowment of $756 million ranked 10th in the Big Ten (see chart), one slot higher than the previous year, when it was dead last.   Northwestern set the pace with $3.73 billion, followed by the University of Michigan with 3.69 billion.  “We’re too great a university to be last in anything,” says Chuck Webb, vice president for university development.  “Our alumni are motivated to help, just as they root for MSU to win the football or basketball championship.”

            Indeed, alumni can help out in many ways (see sidebar, “How You Can Help!”).  Besides contributing to the cause, alumni can work with regional alumni clubs and help strengthen the endowed funds for student scholarships and help organize campaign drives in their communities.

            “Our campaign is very broad-based in that we’re seeking support from every constituency—faculty, staff, alumni, friends, corporations, associations and foundations,” says Marti Heil, associate vice president for university development.  “Alumni, in particular, can enhance the value of their degrees to the extent that MSU is strengthened.”

            Indeed, MSU has identified seven key areas to be strengthened, beginning with the need to attract exceptional faculty and students. 

            “That’s something John Hannah did when he led MSU through a period of tremendous growth and transformation in the 1960s,” notes Webb.  “A university’s reputation is derived from people.  We have to continue to go after the most gifted students and faculty.”

            A second and closely related area is to provide quality educational opportunities for all people, a bedrock principle of our land-grant tradition.  MSU needs more resources for scholarships and financial aid to maintain opportunities in both graduate and undergraduate education.

            A third area is research, where in the past MSU has made a tremendous impact with the discovery of hybrid corn, homogenized milk and many more breakthroughs in agriculture.  MSU research also yielded benefits ranging from the world’s leading anti-cancer drug to the use of cyclotrons for medicine.  At MSU, students have an opportunity to engage in research right off the bat as freshmen.  MSU needs resources to continue to support its most promising research.

            A fourth area, again closely related to the land-grant philosophy, is the practical approach to problem solving.  Research advances knowledge, and its impact is not complete until that knowledge is put to broad use. 

            Fifth, MSU must invest in state-of-the-art facilities with the latest technology in classrooms and laboratories—as well as quality architecture consistent with the egalitarian spirit that has pervaded the campus since the beginning.

            Sixth, MSU needs to maintain its leadership in global education.  MSU was the first university to establish a dean of international programs, signaling the importance of a global perspective in all things educational.  MSU, which boasts more than 2,800 international students from 126 countries and the most students in Study Abroad programs anywhere, must sustain this momentum.

            Last, but certainly not least, MSU needs to strengthen its unique sense of community—preserving the beauty of its idyllic campus, strengthening the ties of its alumni, and through technology extend and expand the MSU community.

            In addition to these broad goals that cut across the campus, each of MSU’s colleges and myriad programs will have specific goals and emphases.  These units include all academic units, plus units such as Wharton Center, MSU Libraries, MSU Athletics, Campus Park & Planning and the campus beautification program, MSU Gardens, and so on.  Indeed, the effort and creativity by each unit will ultimately determine the full scope and impact the the Campaign for MSU. 

            “Each academic unit is ready to extend itself, strengthening its academic profile, creating more knowledge, and expanding its societal impact consistent with the time-honored land-grant tradition,” says Heil.  “You will find a variety of endowment opportunities at every level.”

            Alumni who have paid careful attention to what has been unfolding on campus in recent years realize that, under the leadership of President Peter McPherson, Provost Lou Anna K. Simon, and the deans, MSU is well on its way to achieving the many ambitious goals formally mentioned in the Campaign For MSU.  As the campaign unfolds towards its conclusion in 2007, with the help of alumni and friends, the vision of a better and stronger MSU will come that much closer to reality.


            Just as Michigan State helped you succeed in life, you might now wish to help your alma mater build its future as it continues to advance knowledge and transform lives.

            For more information about the “Campaign For MSU” and its many endowment opportunities, visit  Here you can make an unrestricted gift, add to one of the giving areas featured in this story, or support the area of your choice.  Or you can call 800-232-4MSU.

            Just your participation, no matter the dollar amount of your gift, will help  key the success of the Campaign For MSU. 


            Donors have plenty of opportunities for buildings and named endowments.  Naming a building requires a gift of at least 50 percent of construction or rehabilitation costs, plus approval by the MSU Board of Trustees.  The following table lists the size of gift needed for a named endowment:

            Deanship                                              $3,000,000

            Chair (new position)                               $2,500,000

            Dept. Chair or Directorship                     $2,000,000

            Chair (existing position)                         $1,500,000

            Scholar                                                $1,000,000

            Fellow                                                  $500,000

            Graduate Fellowship                              $350,000

            Visiting Professorship                            $250,000

            Scholarship                                          $250,000

            Visiting Lectureship                               $150,000

            Endowed Fund                                      $30,000

Author: Robert Bao

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