The University's comprehensive campaign has passed the $1 billion mark, President Joel Seligman announced Wednesday. A commitment of more than $4 million from James Aquavella, professor of ophthalmology, pushed the Campaign past the historic mark and significantly closer to the campaign goal that was announced in October 2011.

Aquavella, a clinician and researcher in the University's Flaum Eye Institute, made the gift in memory of his late wife, Kay, who was a nurse and administrator dedicated to the establishment of the Institute.

The University now joins a group of 29 private U.S. colleges and universities to exceed $1 billion. The ultimate objective for The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester is to surpass $1.2 billion in commitments by June 30, 2016.

"At a time when the University faces several daunting challenges, including dramatic changes in the provision of health care and cutbacks in federal funding for research, it is wonderful to be able to announce that we have passed the $1 billion milestone," Seligman said. "We are grateful for the vision, generosity and support of our alumni, friends, faculty, staff, parents, and students. Let me especially thank Jim Thompson and the great Advancement team for our progress to date. On behalf of the University, I say to them all: 'Thanks a billion!' But let me add, 'Our work is but begun.' We still have much to do to effectively support our faculty, students and staff and to develop programs that place us in the vanguard of cutting edge research, the highest quality education, clinical care, professional schools, and the creative arts."

The Meliora Challenge is the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in the University's history. The $1.2 billion goal incorporates goals in five critical areas: $225 million for student support, primarily endowed scholarships and fellowships; $350 million for faculty support with an emphasis on endowed professorships; $375 million to support programs vital to the schools and units; $130 million in unrestricted support through the annual fund; and $120 million for new facilities and campus renovations.

"I want to thank Campaign co-chairs Cathy Minehan and Rich Handler for their inspired leadership and personal generosity in a campaign that is transforming the University and the communities it serves," said Board of Trustees Chair Ed Hajim. "The Campaign has benefited from the philanthropy of many donors with gifts of all sizes. The $1 billion mark is truly significant, achievable only through our broad base of over 155,000 donors."

Hajim and his wife, Barbara, are among those leading Campaign giving, committing $30 million in 2008 to fund student scholarships and to support the endowment in the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. Since its inception, lead donors such as Eastman Kodak Company, Robert and Pamela Goergen, B. Thomas Golisano, Richard and Martha Jane Handler, E. Philip and Carole Saunders, Thomas and Linda Sloan, and the Wilmot family have provided transformational gifts that have propelled the Campaign forward.

Seligman described how such gifts have made a visible impact on campus, enabling the initiation or completion of a number of new facilities projects that have advanced the University's academic and community missions. Included in these projects are the 245,000 square-foot Golisano Children's Hospital (scheduled to open in 2015); the recently dedicated, Ronald Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation; Raymond F. LeChase Hall, the new 65,000 square-foot home to the Warner School of Education; and the Eastman Theatre renovation and expansion project.

University Trustee Laurence Bloch, who serves as chair of the Trustees Development Committee, praised the efforts of the University community, but reiterated the importance of sustaining momentum in the Campaign's final 32 months.

"From President Seligman, who has been a true visionary and the driver of this campaign, to the deans, faculty, administrators, donors, families, and friends, our collective commitment has been an inspiring nationwide effort," said Bloch. "While important to celebrate this great milestone, it is also time to redouble our efforts to end the Campaign strongly. To meet our goals and achieve the Campaign's priorities, we still have a lot of work to do through June of 2016."

The Medical Center is a major part of the University's overall campaign with a goal of $650 million, of which $510 million has already been raised. Among its key priorities are programs and research that strive to creatively and aggressively find breakthroughs that will treat—and some day cure—many diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, and cancer.

The Campaign's scholarships initiative is a priority to broaden access to a Rochester education for outstanding students with the talent and ambition. To date, 245 endowed scholarships and fellowships have been established through the Campaign to enable students to study at the University. Current Campaign support has also further strengthened faculty by the establishing a total of 68 new professorships throughout the University to help attract and retain world-renowned scholars and scientists.

Seligman said the data science initiative—approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2013—is a critical project and priority for The Meliora Challenge. The plan includes the addition of up to 20 new faculty members to do pioneering research and a new signature building that is currently being designed.

The Campaign's outreach includes the George Eastman Circle through which more than 2,700 members have made five-year pledges to support more than 200 available unrestricted funds across the University.

The recently launched University faculty and staff philanthropy campaign, OneRochester, has already seen more than 38 percent of faculty and staff contributing to the Campaign.

For more information about The Meliora Challenge, visit