The University Record, October 1, 1997

Campaign for Michigan - Over the Top at 1,371,837,199!

It may not be over. Harris 'suggests' $2 billion by 2000

Co-chairs Mike Wallace (left) and Ira Harris. Harris pledged $2 million to a continuation of the campaign.

Co-chair Bo Schembechler signs the placard with the winning numbers.

By Jane R. Elgass

Yellow-and-white and blue-and-white checked tablecloths graced the more than 135 tables in the Indoor Track Building last Friday where 1,100 people would have the "largest fund-raising dinner ever held at the University" as part of the activities celebrating the successful conclusion of the $1.37 billion Campaign for Michigan.

Awaiting the diners at each table were white-frosted layer cakes decorated with maize and blue confetti and on their chairs a booklet titled "Because of You We Can Celebrate the Success of the Campaign for Michigan."

Welcoming the guests, campaign co-chair Bo Schembechler noted that the campaign's success is a great victory for Michigan. He told the audience that the difference between being good and being great is a little bit of effort. "You've given that effort to keep Michigan a great university."

But the campaign, the largest ever completed by an American public university, may not be over.

Co-chair Ira Harris, admitting that he hadn't "run this by anybody" and that he'd "probably get in trouble," suggested that the Regents and development office consider "keeping it going for $2 billion in 2000."

It's not a new $2 billion, he hastened to explain, but a chance to "do a little bit more" and a "good excuse to come back for another great party."

He then put his money where his mouth is and announced a $2 million pledge on behalf of himself and his wife Nicki. In the Campaign for Michigan, the Harrises launched a $2 million challenge grant for 10 endowed chairs in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts that resulted in the funding of 22.

One long and one short wall of the Indoor Track Building were covered with posters containing, in alphabetical order, the names of the more than 250,000 donors to the campaign. Calling it a "marvelous sight," Harris said he'd like to see 300,000 names on the walls the next time.

Not a new face to most of the donors, President Lee C. Bollinger said that the nice thing about being president is getting a $1.4 billion check just after being inaugurated.

He joked that he was glad to have the money to work with in the next few years, but feared most of it was already committed.

Bollinger said he was stunned by Harris's commitment. "I didn't realize this job would be that easy," he joked. "I haven't even talked to him."

Bollinger, who was dean of the Law School when the campaign began, noted that many of the conversations he'd heard over the past two days were about memories of faculty, administrators and coaches who "laid the foundation" for the successful fund-raising effort.

Adding one of his own memories, he noted that he needed some financial help when he came here but there was no financial aid available. Dean Roy Proffitt gave him $20 to tide him over until the next week. "That's a human touch that a great, huge university can take pride in."

The president also noted that the activities last weekend were not the end, "not a celebration alone, not a thank-you and goodbye. It's a friendship that we want to carry forward. I invite you to leave here and continue your commitment."

During his luncheon address, Bollinger announced that the University has retained the services of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates of Philadelphia to create a new master plan for the campus. Over the past 33 years, the firm has earned an international reputation as one of the world's leading architectural design and planning firms.

Its current college and university projects include a student center at Princeton University; laboratory buildings at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania; a campus plan and library at Dartmouth College; and a master plan and student-center complex at the University of Pennsylvania.

'Thank you. Thank all of you. You know how much you mean. This past five years have been the most challenging of my life.' --Margaret Riecker, Campaign co-chair

Vice President for Development Thomas Kinnear thanked Harris for helping him keep his job.

'This is a Michigan team. You can count on our energy and commitment. We did it and we did it with a terrific margin. You made it possible. It's one of the greatest achievements in academic finance.' --Allan Gilmour, Campaign co-chair

All photos on this page taken by Bob Kalmbach.