University of Oregon announced the launch of a public capital campaign Friday. The goal: $2 billion.

This is the public phase of what has been a private fundraising campaign, and in the last four years that campaign has raised $700 million.

The Emerald interviewed Mike Andreasen, vice president for university advancement at UO. Andreasen oversees fundraising and alumni associations.

$2 billion dollars is a pretty big total. What gives you the confidence that you can raise $2 billion in the next four years?

MA: “I’m so impressed with how much the donors have already. We had this party last night and as we began to plan for it, many donors came to us and said ‘We want to make sure that our gifts are in and counted as part of that $700 million.’ That shows me that there’s great enthusiasm and great confidence, and I think that these ideas of scholarships, pathway Oregon, presidential scholars, these cluster hires around faculty, they are inspiring our donors, and I’m very confident that by declaring this number, by focusing on students and faculty, donors are going to really stretch themselves and make gifts bigger than they every imagined.”

So did we get a lot of donors last night?

MA: “We did. We had a wonderful event, I think we had over 600 people, and we wanted to thank those donors that have already given and we asked them to continue to give more as part of the program last night.”

There were a lot of rumors last night that Phil Knight was going to donate a billion. Do you have any idea where those rumors started?

MA: “No idea. And you know, frankly I’m a little disappointed about that because our donors have been amazing, including Phil and Penny. They’ve given already, I know they will continue to give.”

How is this campaign different from the last?

MA: “I don’t know that it’s different in the sense that we’ve always wanted to encourage donors to support students and faculty. Of course, one difference in this campaign is that it’s a much bigger number, only because of the success of the last campaign that we can imagine and dream and get that excited about a $2 billion number. But I think we have more donors. Last year we had more first time donors. Last year two-thirds of all gifts went to academic purposes. We feel that we’re positioned now to really take fundraising and the role of philanthropy in our university to a whole new level and that’s evidenced in the big number, the big goal.”

You said in a June interview that 5 percent of donors will make up 95 percent of donations. Can you speak a little bit to those numbers?

MA: “It’s an interesting trend in higher education, not just for us, certainly in public universities, that increasingly these large campaigns are really driven by some very large gifts, and that’s just the way of the math. But I want to make really clear, because for me personally this is something that’s really important, we are just as grateful and excited about that first $100 gift as we are about someone who makes a $10 million dollar gift. Every one of these large donors began their philanthropy at Oregon in a small way, years in past. We’re always trying to grow the base of donors, get more alumni to participate, more alumni to give to their college, to a scholarship, to whatever program they’re most inspired by. Then of course we’re working with some extraordinary people who have the ability to make really large gifts and really impactful gifts. We do both, so that’s part of the agenda and that’s what we love to do.”

With increasing scholarships and cluster hires, it seems like we’re looking to boost our ranking. What schools are we looking to be on the same level as?

MA: “Certainly we are very proud to be a part of the AAU… but as we think about the kind of position we are in that organization and other organizations, we want to be a leader. We want to have unique areas of research that people know Oregon is an expert in and Oregon has a unique perspective to it. So we have to maintain that position in the AAU, we have to grow our reputation within that organization, we also have to grow our reputation internationally. More and more this is a global educational world, and we’ve got students coming from abroad. We’ve got Oregonians going abroad. So we want to make sure those partner universities around the world also look to Oregon as a leader.”

Any chance we’ll ever be known as the Harvard of the West? 

MA: “I don’t know, but that’s not a bad idea I suppose… Harvard could be known as the Oregon of the east, that’s an even better aspiration.”

Do you think this [capital campaign] will help us to recruit a new president?

MA: “I do. I think it’s an exciting time for the university as they begin that search process. I think to be a presidential candidate who’s looking to a university that’s full of excitement and enthusiasm and that knows that the donor community will be there with them I think that’s a great part of the Oregon story. The loyalty and support is just extraordinary. I think if a presidential candidate was looking at Oregon, they’d be inspired by what we said last night and what we intend to do in the coming weeks and months.”

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