The University of Missouri is within sprinting distance of completing a $1.3 billion fundraising campaign launched formally in October 2015.
Officials celebrated a record fundraising year on Wednesday morning, with $200 million in new pledges and cash gifts during the 2018-19 academic year. The donations bring the Mizzou: Our Time to Lead campaign total to just $50 million short of its $1.3 billion goal.
Exactly when the drive will reach the goal will be determined by donors, but Tom Hiles, MU vice chancellor for advancement, said he expects it will occur before the new year.
"It will depend on cash flow and a couple of big requests we have out, but we believe it will be sometime this fall," Hiles said.
The new record was almost 20 percent more than 2016, the university's best year previously, when $170 million in new pledges and cash gifts were tallied.
MU received $131.8 million in cash donations, which include payments on past pledges and new cash contributions, second only to the $147 million received in 2017-18, Hiles said.
The Mizzou: Our Time to Lead campaign began with a "silent phase" that saw donors pledge or give about $650 million prior to the formal unveiling. The campaign's goals are to increase the institutional endowment to more than $1 billion to help MU attract and retain the best students and faculty, establish new academic units such as the Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy and the Novak Leadership Institute, and support campus building projects.
The result, officials expect, will bring about enhanced status with the Association of American Universities, expanded research and new student success initiatives.
The span of the campaign has included a lot of upheaval at MU. That has included racial protests and other disruptions that led to the resignations of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and System President Tim Wolfe in 2015. Donations plunged in the immediate aftermath of the protests by the ConcernedStudent1950 group but soon rebounded.
"There's been an incredible amount of changes that have taken place," Hiles said. "The constant has been the interest and willingness of alumni to give."
Hiles said there's a difference with Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, Provost Latha Ramchand and System President Mun Choi established in their positions.
"We have some stability in leadership and we're starting to see some real traction," Hiles said.
The donations and pledges will have a long-term impact on student scholarships, faculty support and building projects including the new School of Music building and the NextGen Precision Health Institute, Hiles said.
Officials on Wednesday also noted a $4.5 million donation to the University of Missouri School of Law by alumnus Charles R. Wall through his Wall Family Foundation. Wall is a former tobacco industry lawyer and former chairman of the New York City Opera. The donation would be divided into $2 million in unrestricted scholarships for MU law students and $2.5 million to support a Wall Family Chair in Corporate Law and Governance and to create a new Wall Family Chair in U.S. Constitutional Law.
"I want all future University of Missouri School of Law graduates to know they can compete with graduates from any law school in the country," Wall said in a news release. "I've seen first-hand the results of investing in MU and its students, and continuing my commitment to that vision is important to me."
Hiles said the year's donations and pledges also include 29 of $1 million or more. He attributes the fundraising success to the staff, volunteers and generous alumni.
Mizzou Giving Day, when faculty, staff and students are encouraged to donate, resulted in more than $13 million of the total.
"This exciting trend proves that time and time again, Mizzou alumni and friends are dedicated to strengthening Missouri's flagship university," Cartwright said in the news release. "We are proud to have some of the most generous supporters in the nation and the gifts they've given will be transformative for current and future Mizzou students."
There were 40,491 donors during the year. The largest single donation was $20 million from KC Scholars, a not-for-profit that provides financial support for students in the six-county Kansas City region.