Today Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) concludes its year-long 150th anniversary celebration with an announcement that the university closed the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in its history, having surpassed its goal with an extra $48 million.
Intending to raise $200 million with if…The Campaign to Advance WPI, the university's fundraising effort actually brought in just over $248 million, nearly 25 percent above goal. The funds raised will target student financial assistance, faculty and academic programs, and campus facilities.
One particularly exciting outcome made possible by this campaign will be the expansion of the university’s Global Scholars Program by providing more need-based scholarships to WPI students who wish to participate in the university's Global Projects Program. WPI currently sends a larger percentage of engineering and science majors overseas than any other college or university in the United States, and President Laurie A. Leshin has publicly stated that she would like to see 90 percent of WPI students engaged in the university’s groundbreaking program by 2018.
"WPI is so grateful for the support shown by our alumni, friends, and partners during this campaign, and we want them to know that we will ensure that their generosity advances WPI students, faculty, and facilities for years to come," said President Leshin. "As we enter our next 150 years, it is heartening to know that the WPI community is so well positioned to expand our critical work, leveraging innovation to address the great challenges facing our world.
"Our donors have ensured that WPI will be able to provide a transformative educational experience for generations of outstanding students from all socio-economic backgrounds—not just on campus, but at the university's project centers, which are found locally, nationally, and globally—and that WPI faculty and students will be able to continue to pursue outstanding research, teaching, and learning in facilities that foster excellence."
The success of the campaign was due to the contributions of more than 17,000 alumni and friends, foundations, and corporations, who donated in support of WPI’s strategic initiatives in three key areas:
- $110 million was raised for student financial assistance, far exceeding campaign goals. Most notably, Robert A. Foisie '56 made the largest individual commitment in the university’s history. Foisie was a first-generation college graduate and had received scholarships during his time as an undergraduate at WPI; last year he committed $40 million to provide scholarships for generations of students to come. Prior to making this commitment, the trustee emeritus was already the university’s largest single donor and had provided scholarships to some 580 WPI students.
- $36 million was raised for faculty and academic program support. This includes the creation of five new endowed professorships, which not only support WPI faculty in their research, but also help the university attract the best and brightest scholars and teachers.
- $52 million was raised for campus facility development. Of particular note, the George I. Alden Trust set a new standard of philanthropy on the campus. Historically one of the university's most generous benefactors, during this campaign the Alden Trust contributed $11 million for the renovation of Goddard Hall into the George I. Alden Life Sciences and Bioengineering Educational Center, and has pledged $3 million toward the creation of the Foisie Innovation Studio. In addition to the Alden Trust’s transformative gifts, donor support from this campaign allowed for the creation of WPI’s spectacular Sports and Recreation Center; the university's state-of-the-art Fire Protection Engineering Laboratory; East Hall, a suite-style residence hall with the first green roof in Worcester; and renovation of the university’s Project Center building.
In addition, if…The Campaign to Advance WPI also raised $50 million in unrestricted support, which, according to WPI's vice president for university advancement William J. McAvoy, is vital to the university's ability to be financially nimble and strategic, and is what will provide for the global scholarships.
WPI was among the first universities in the United States to incorporate project-based learning in its undergraduate curriculum. In 1970, the university launched the WPI Plan, an approach to learning that requires students to apply acquired skills and abilities to solve real-world problems as they complete projects across all four years, including two significant projects.
WPI launched a global component to its project-based curriculum in 1974 and now sends approximately 63 percent of its students to more than 45 project centers around the world, where they work in teams on their required projects—under advisement—to focus on issues such as energy, food, health, and urban sustainability. A recent UMass Donahue Institute study revealed that project-based learning has significantly impacted the professional abilities, interpersonal and communication skills, and professional advancement of WPI alumni, and has also enhanced their world views.
"Unrestricted giving is an investment in WPI students and faculty today, enabling them to take advantage of important teaching, research, and learning opportunities now," said McAvoy. "It is this funding that will allow the university to provide more students with the financial means to engage in the Global Projects Program."
The university's Board of Trustees approved the fundraising effort in 2008. Over the course of the campaign, 45 gifts of $1 million or more were made. All told, more than 10,000 individual alumni contributed nearly $140 million, and 1,000 alumni became new donors to WPI during the campaign. Funding from corporations and foundations exceeded $55 million, and $52 million was committed by parents and friends.
"The support of WPI alumni and friends during these past seven years has raised the standard of philanthropy at WPI tremendously," said McAvoy. "It is especially meaningful that this fundraising effort is closing during the university's 150th anniversary year, since these funds have set WPI up for a bright future."