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October 25, 2011

University launches historic $1.2 billion campaign

Joel Seligman on stage

“The history of our University is the history of Ever Better,” President Joel Seligman said in announcing the University’s $1.2 billion fundraising initiative. “We accept The Meliora Challenge because our University, our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends have never settled for good enough.”

The University has announced the largest comprehensive fundraising Campaign in its 161-year history with a $1.2 billion goal. The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester will advance the University’s leadership in research, teaching, and patient care, and enhance its service to society. The Campaign will invoke the shared values and learning that have inspired generations of students, faculty, and staff to be “ever better,” the common translation of Meliora and the University’s motto.

Accompanied by Board of Trustees Chairman Ed Hajim ’58 and trustee and national campaign co-chair Richard B. Handler ’83, University President Joel Seligman announced at an Oct. 21 gathering of Campaign volunteers and leaders at the Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center that more than $759 million had been raised to date.

“We know our aspirations are high. We share a dream: to be one of the leading universities of the 21st century, a community leader and builder, home to outstanding faculty, students, and staff,” said Seligman. “Together as one university we launch our campaign. Together we will make history.”

The Meliora Challenge will be the first time that the entire University—all schools, units, programs, disciplines, and locations—is participating in a unified, coordinated effort to meet University-wide fundraising goals in order to achieve a University-wide vision. All private gifts and grant support during the Campaign period will count toward the total. The public phase of the Campaign follows a phase of leadership giving that commenced with the arrival of Seligman in July 2005. The Campaign is scheduled to conclude in June 2016.

Hajim’s $30 million commitment in support of scholarships and to endow the Edmund A. Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 2008 is the largest Campaign gift thus far. “George Eastman used to say, ‘The progress of the world depends almost entirely on education,’ said Hajim. “I go a step further and say, ‘Education is the key to everything.’ ”

Rochester joins an elite group of the nation’s universities in embarking on a $1.2 billion fundraising goal; only 34 of the nation’s four-year institutions are currently in campaigns of $1 billion or more.

Seligman explained that The Meliora Challenge is focusing on five objectives: $225 million for student support, primarily through endowed scholarships and fellowships ($131 million already raised); $350 million for faculty, primarily through endowed professorships ($226 million raised); $375 million to support priority programs within the schools and units ($226 million raised); $130 million for unrestricted support through the Annual Fund ($78 million raised); and $120 million for campus renovations and new facilities ($77 million raised).

As part of the Campaign, the University also hopes to significantly increase membership in the George Eastman Circle, the University’s leadership annual giving society. It currently has more than 1,900 memberships from donors who have made five-year commitments for a minimum of $1,500 each year. Established in 2006, the George Eastman Circle has made Rochester one of the fastest growing Annual Fund programs in the United States.

Cathy Minehan ’68, a trustee and national campaign co-chair with Handler, has watched strong partnerships develop between the University and its donors. “Whether or not they and their families have directly benefited from a Rochester education, supporters recognize our distinctive strengths in many fields and the exceptional qualities of our students and faculty,” she said. “Great universities stand apart because of the faculty and students that they recruit, retain, and support.”

Approximately 9,000 alumni, students, parents, and friends of the University gathered for Meliora Weekend on the River Campus Oct. 20 to 23. The Oct. 22 “Celebration of Meliora” brought the University community together to celebrate the public launch of The Meliora Challenge. The campus-wide event highlighted extraordinary accomplishments and look ahead at the promise and potential for Rochester’s future. A fireworks display from the banks of the Genesee River closed the event.

Regional celebrations of The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester are being planned across the country. For more information, go to

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Raffaella Borasi reappointed as Warner School dean

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Remembering Meliora Weekend 2011