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College of William and Mary launches record-breaking fundraising campaign

State universities in Virginia have faced multiple rounds of cutbacks in state support in recent years. With funding to public universities on the decline, William and Mary has chosen to respond to the situation by launching the school's most ambitious campaign in its 310-year history.

Saturday night, the College publicly announced its campaign, calling for the raising of $500 million by 2007.

"Our goal is simple -- to make William and Mary one of the world's best universities," William & Mary President Timothy J. Sullivan said at the campaign's launch.

William and Mary, which has been ranked as the nation's sixth-best public university for the fifth year in a row, will attempt to reach its goal by seeking outright gifts, multiyear pledges and longer-term estate provisions from alumni and friends.

The College aims to build the school's long-term financial strength, despite the inevitable ups and downs of state support.

"The campaign results from a realization that the College's resources of revenue have changed dramatically and forever," said Dennis Croos, William and Mary vice president for development. "The College's supporters realize that its future depends increasingly on the generosity of its alumni and friends and that private giving provides a permanent and growing source of revenue."

During the 30-month silent phase of the campaign, before the public kick off, the College received donations from more than 36,000 donors, securing $201 million in gifts and commitments. The largest commitment to date has been $21 million from two anonymous donors.

Also faced with increased budget cuts and decreasing contributions from the state, U.Va. plans to launch a similar campaign.

The silent phase of the University's $3 billion campaign will begin in January 2004. The public launch will begin in either the Fall of 2005 or the Spring of 2006. The campaign will continue for six years.

This $3 billion campaign is unprecedented among public universities nationwide, said Robert Sweeney, senior vice president for development and public affairs.

"I don't know at this moment if a larger campaign that has been discussed," Sweeney said.

In order to meet the projected goal, the University will have to raise an average of $1.1 million a day for seven years.

The University's last campaign, which ended in 2000 and raised $1.43 billion, generated 209 gifts in excess of $1 million each. For this campaign, the University will have to generate 550 to 600 gifts at that level.

"It's a complex matrix of relationship building and fundraising," University Spokesperson Carol Wood said. "There are a myriad of ways to make money."

President John T. Casteen III typically hosts over 150 events at Carr's Hill every year to facilitate fundraising. He also will travel extensively -- articulating the vision for the institution and meeting one-on-one with private donors, Sweeney said.

"John Casteen is as good as anyone in the country at doing that," he added.