Coleman (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)
Alumni and friends of the University of Michigan will be tapped next month when the state’s second-largest public university launches a multi-billion dollar campaign, the sixth in the last half-century.
As part of the initiative, retiring President Mary Sue Coleman announced Tuesday at the annual Leadership Breakfast that she and her husband, Kenneth Coleman, will donate $1 million for international study, internships, service work and other opportunities for students.
The gift, combined with others, makes Coleman the most philanthropic president in U-M’s history.
“We want to help students who otherwise might not experience what we did,” said Coleman, who was shaped by her three-month study in Europe while an undergraduate at Grinnell College in Iowa. “We also hope our gift motivates others to give. ... Supporting higher education helps realize dreams, and I can’t think of a more rewarding, lasting gesture.”
U-M’s fundraising campaign — to be known as the Victors for Michigan campaign — will kick off Nov. 8.
The financial goal won’t be announced until then, but Coleman said the goal will be “very big” because of the university’s extraordinary ambitions.
Officials said the upcoming campaign goal will exceed the Michigan Difference campaign, which ended in 2008 and raised $3.2 billion, surpassing its $2.5 billion goal.
It will be a comprehensive campaign to infuse every school and unit at U-M with resources, including the campuses of Dearborn and Flint.
The campaign will focus on three priorities, the highest of which is to support scholarships, fellowships and more for expanded university financial aid and global experience funding. Coleman’s $1 million gift will go toward that priority.
The campaign’s other priorities will be for experiential learning — studying outside the classroom — in U-M programs in Detroit or in other countries. The funding also will be earmarked for tackling real-world problems such as childhood obesity, Great Lakes water quality and environmental sustainability.
Coleman said the last fundraising campaign provided $545 million for student support but her goal is to double that in the Victors for Michigan campaign, to $1 billion.
Regent Andrew Richner, who attended the breakfast, walked up to the podium after Coleman’s address and called her gift “a truly extraordinary, unprecedented act of generosity.”
“You truly lead by example, and what an example,” Richner said.
Coleman, U-M’s first female president, is retiring next year. She is the nation’s sixth highest-paid university president, earning a compensation package of more than $900,000 annually.
During her 11-year tenure, she and her husband have given $1.79 million to create and enhance several university funds for more global experiences for students. Part of those gifts have come from annual salary increases, which she has returned to the university for at least two years.
“There is no better way to understand the universality of human experience, as well as the diversity thereof, than by experience abroad, which should be an important part of both undergraduate and graduate educational experiences,” said Kenneth Coleman, a political scientist who specializes in Latin America.
Coleman’s gift and the upcoming fundraising campaign come as public universities in Michigan and across the nation have suffered from massive cuts in government funding during the recent recession. That, in turn, has led to a shift of financial burdens toward students in the form of higher tuition.
The donation and the campaign also follow several large gifts to U-M, including a record $200 million contribution from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for the business school and athletic department; $110 million from Charles Munger for graduate student housing and $50 million from Helen Zell for the graduate Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.
In 2012, U-M’s endowment was valued at $7.7 billion. Officials are expected to update that figure to the Board of Regents later this month.
Other universities also are actively raising funds. Wayne State University is in the silent phase of a fundraising campaign that will launch publicly in fall 2014. Last month, Harvard University launched a $6.5 billion fundraising campaign that would be the largest ever in higher education.