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Advancement Committee receives $10 million gift, surpasses fundraising goals

Fundraising for the University over the course of the current fiscal year is the second best in the University’s history

The Board of Visitors Advancement Committee thanked Class of 1981 alumnus Robert Ruff for donating $10 million towards diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and recounted fundraising success during its meeting this weekend. 

The meeting began with an announcement from Vice Rector Robert Hardie, who commended the advancement team’s success in accruing funding for the University.

“We can’t take this for granted — these are milestone accomplishments,” Hardie said.

The most significant announcement in the meeting was the donation from Ruff, who expressed his confidence in the leadership of University President Jim Ryan, the Board of Visitors and the 2030 Plan, a comprehensive guide that aims to make the University the best public school in the nation. 

Ruff said he thinks students have been held back from engaging in fun activities together, which has contributed to worsened mental health among the student population.

“In my opinion, the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression,” Ruff said. “We have the highest rates of depression and anxiety in our 14 to 24 year-old group than we’ve ever had — but I don’t believe it’s actually depression and anxiety, I think it’s burnout.”

Ruff suggested a renewal of spirit on Grounds and an equal investment in both students’ academic and non-academic opportunities, finding it to be another effective way of engaging alumni donors.

Board member C. Evans Poston Jr. also announced that Ryan’s Honor the Future campaign surpassed its $500 million fundraising goal, having accrued $520 million commitments with a month left to go. Poston anticipates this fiscal year’s fundraising efforts to be the University’s second highest amount of fundraising in a year in the University’s history. 

The athletics department saw its highest year of monetary commitments, ending the year with approximately $100 million largely in part to a $40 million anonymous donation from a former athlete, the department’s largest ever donation. Poston Jr. noted that former patients of U.Va. Health donated a total of $29 million to the University, higher than the average of the five years prior of $17 million. 

Director of Donor Relations Cecil Banks then delineated recent events for the Honor the Future campaign, acknowledging wide-sweeping efforts to reach alumni from across the country. 

“Over 1700 people, alumni and donors, attended our events over the last 6 months,” Banks said. “[The events] were designed to be far-reaching, we wanted to engage the most people across the country in large cities.”

Among the team’s recent efforts was a stewardship event — called “Hoos Grateful” — designed to educate current students on philanthropy and engage them in fundraising efforts for the University. As part of the event, students filmed short videos and wrote hand-written thank you notes for donors. The event produced over 1700 thank-you notes and close to 75 videos to be shared with donors.

According to Banks, plans for the upcoming academic year in regards to fundraising will be more intimate and targeted in areas like Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Greenwich and Nashville, in addition to an event this fall in London.