University of Arizona donors gave $317 million last year, setting record

The University of Arizona brought in $317 million in philanthropic gifts, pledges and endowments in fiscal year 2018 — the largest pot of donations in its 133-year history. The previous record was $293.5 million in fiscal 2015.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the university. Our new leadership, President (Robert) Robbins, got the community invested in the strategic plan. I think people see where the institution is going and they’re willing to get behind it,” said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the UA Foundation, the school’s permanent financial foundation.

“It’s also been helpful that the stock market is doing well, and people who have means have the opportunity to give,” he said.

Endowed giving totaled about $93 million, more than the past three years of endowments combined. These donations apply to scholarships, professorships, research funds and other causes.

For example, one of the school’s largest donations came late last summer. Biosphere 2’s co-founder and primary benefactor Edward Bass donated $30 million to the university to support the research facility and to create two endowed faculty positions. He also donated the facility itself.

The UA libraries were also given $2.3 million from the estate of late archaeologist Katheryne Willock and created the Katheryne B. Willock Dean of the University of Arizona Libraries Chair. The money also supports a graduate assistantship for students in the library and information science program.

Another large gift of $1.5 million will be combined with a previous gift of $500,000 to establish the Jeffrey B. Plevan Chair in Israel Studies within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The donation honors the namesake alumnus, who died in 2013 from a heart attack at the age of 36.

The Eminent Scholars Program, which began Nov. 1, 2016, will provide additional support to faculty for endowments over $1 million. The program will match the payout of these endowments and will be available for the next $47.5 million in new gifts and commitments.

Endowments are invested with a 4 percent payout. The money garnered is a source of permanent funding for university faculty, student scholarships, capital development and more, Roczniak said.

At the end of the last fiscal year, June 30, the UA’s endowment reached nearly $848 million, a 14 percent jump over totals from the previous fiscal year. The school aims to reach $1 billion by 2022.

Investment decisions are made by the investment committee appointed by the UA Foundation’s board of trustees. Robbins sits on the volunteer committee in addition to other leaders in higher-education, business and civics.

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