Aspire campaign raises record $1.88 billion for Princeton University

The five-year Aspire campaign, which ended on June 30, exceeded its $1.75 billion goal by raising $1.88 billion — substantially more than any campaign in Princeton's history — to support the University's programs of teaching and research as well as its efforts to prepare students from a wide range of backgrounds for leadership in a complex world.

"The success of this collective effort to strengthen the University to better serve the nation and the world is a tribute to the dedication, enthusiasm and generosity of our alumni, parents and friends," said Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman. "In countless ways, the Aspire campaign has reinforced our traditional strengths while allowing us to break new ground and prepare to achieve our highest aspirations for the years ahead."

The campaign focused on a carefully determined set of priorities: strengthening the core Princeton experience; providing unrestricted funds through the Annual Giving program for efforts such as the University's groundbreaking financial aid program; and enhancing the University's capacities in engineering and the environment, the creative and performing arts, neuroscience, and global citizenship.

More than 65,000 donors (undergraduate and graduate alumni, corporations and foundations, parents, and friends) — including more than 77 percent of all undergraduate alumni — contributed 271,559 separate gifts to Aspire since it was launched in November 2007. Among other purposes, these gifts established 26 new professorships, 120 new undergraduate scholarships and 25 new graduate fellowships. 

In the final year of the campaign Annual Giving set a new record by raising $57.2 million, with an undergraduate alumni participation rate of 60.8 percent. Over the course of the campaign Annual Giving twice set new dollar records, with alumni, parents and friends contributing a total of more than $254.5 million in Annual Giving funds — unrestricted support that is essential to the University's financial stability and flexibility.

In keeping with Princeton tradition, the campaign was conducted largely through the efforts of volunteers. The work of alumni from more than 85 undergraduate classes, graduate alumni and parent volunteers across the country and around the world was guided by Aspire campaign co-chairs Robert Murley of the Class of 1972 and Nancy Peretsman of the Class of 1976. During the first two years of the campaign, the Annual Giving effort was led by Rajiv Vinnakota of the Class of 1993; for the final three years, he was succeeded by Kelly Doherty of the Class of 1981.

Significant funds were raised in all of the University's areas of priority. The most notable achievements include:

In the creative and performing arts, a $101 million gift from Peter B. Lewis, a 1955 alumnus and University trustee, established the Lewis Center for the Arts, which has allowed Princeton to expand its offerings in visual arts, music, dance, theater and creative writing. Additional funds were raised for a new program to bring visiting artists to campus and to create new faculty positions. Also, the directorship of the Princeton University Art Museum was endowed, and new curatorships were established.

In engineering and a sustainable society, a $100 million gift from Gerhard R. (Gerry) Andlinger, a 1952 alumnus, established the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, which focuses on sustainable energy development, conservation and environmental protection, in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The campaign also led to the creation of a center for innovation in engineering education, which encourages students to connect academic theory to practical needs in order to develop solutions to a variety of problems around the world.

The Grand Challenges Initiative, a collaboration among the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and the Princeton Environmental Institute, generated funding to allow faculty and students to work together to develop sustainable energy, combat emerging infectious diseases, and overcome natural resource limitations in developing countries. And a new building — Sherrerd Hall — now serves as the home of the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering and the Center for Information Technology Policy.

Two major funds have been created to support groundbreaking research: a transformative technology fund, for the development of new technologies that have the potential to enable significant scientific advances; and an innovation fund for engineers who wish to pursue projects that may be outside their formal area of expertise or are too speculative to attract conventional funding.

In neuroscience, gifts to the campaign established three major centers of research within the Princeton Neuroscience Institute to better understand the physiology behind human behavior and to discover information that may aid in the battle against neurological disorders: a center for systems neuroscience; a center for the neuroscience of mind and behavior; and a center for neural circuit dynamics. Several multimillion dollar gifts also are funding a new complex, currently under construction, to house the institute and the Department of Psychology.

In global citizenship, gifts are backing initiatives that help give students a more international and multicultural perspective and that enable the exchange of ideas across national borders; and centers that promote a better understanding of subjects that affect the creation of effective public policies. One such initiative is the Bridge Year Program, which allows small groups of incoming freshmen to defer their enrollment for a year to engage in public service while immersed in another culture.

A global fellows program, which brings promising early-career faculty members from around the world to campus, is being established, and a center for globalization and governance, which brings together students and faculty from economics, history, sociology and political science to explore the academic and policy dimensions of globalization and international governance, was endowed.

Two newly supported centers will focus on economic literacy, with the goal of giving leaders the knowledge they need to create sound public policies. A center for public policy and finance within the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs is a hub for study across various disciplines that intersect with public policy and finance — including economics, operations research, political science, history and ethics. A center for economic policy studies brings together experts in academia, government and industry for frank discussions about crucial financial issues.

The campaign also is providing support for various aspects of teaching, residential life and athletics — elements that make up a large part of the core Princeton experience for students. Generous support for the financial aid program allowed the University to meet the increased need for aid during the recent economic downturn, and Princeton's hallmark freshman seminars gained additional funding. Students also will have more opportunities for community service, thanks to the campaign.

Butler College, first constructed in 1964, was rebuilt as a state-of-the-art dormitory complex composed of five new residence halls funded by gifts. Princeton's athletics program benefited from support for renovated and new facilities, including venues for football, soccer, lacrosse and tennis. Alumni also endowed the directorship of athletics and a range of other opportunities for varsity and recreational student-athletes. The campus was made safer for pedestrians by a new bridge spanning Washington Road.

A final report on the Aspire campaign, including an honor roll of donors and volunteers, will be posted online in the fall. Aspire was the fourth and largest formal fundraising campaign in Princeton's 266-year history.