University of Oregon unveils massive fundraising campaign

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – This week the University of Oregon is launching the public portion of the most ambitious philanthropic campaign in state history, hoping to raise $600 million by 2008.

The campaign has been in a so-called "quiet" phase for the last few years, while the university raised about $300 million, with donations coming in for scholarships, endowed professorships and buildings, says President Dave Frohnmayer.

The university’s campaign dwarfs similar efforts to court donors at the state’s other public universities.

Portland State publicly announced a campaign to raise $100 million by 2006 at an October awards dinner. PSU has already raised about $74 million of that sum, including an $8 million donation last March that was the largest in the university’s history.

In an era of declining state support for higher education, public universities in just about every state are plumbing private pockets to stay competitive.

The percentage of state dollars that goes to operating Oregon’s seven public universities has been cut in half since 1987, shifting costs to students and causing campuses to rely heavily on donors.

Oregon State University is gearing up for a big drive, recently hiring a new foundation president who designed a successful $1 billion campaign at Georgetown University.

And OHSU, with a deadline of December 2006, is $18 million shy of reaching its $500 million goal.

To stand out in the crowd, the University of Oregon is throwing a black-tie gala with a Hollywood theme, chaired by Bryce Zabel, a UO alumnus and TV writer and producer who oversaw the Emmy Awards in 2001.

Since 2000, 16 public universities or university systems have embarked on campaigns for $500 million or more, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.