A Glimpse into UVa’s Fund-Raising Juggernaut

Bright shiny object: the proposed $48 million Data Science building.

by James A. Bacon

Alumni unhappy about recent developments at the University of Virginia claim to have withdrawn $150 million or more in pledged financial support for the institution. Money talks in academia as elsewhere. President Jim Ryan and Rector James Murray have engaged disgruntled grads in spoken and written communications and have given them the courtesy of thoughtful (albeit inadequate) responses.

But there is little indication that anything will change. In last week’s Board of Visitors meeting, not one of the issues raised by the insurgent alumni was discussed — not the “F— UVA” sign on the Lawn, not the purging of names from buildings and grounds of once-prominent figures now deemed racist, not the increasing intolerance of non-leftist viewpoints that is strangling intellectual diversity and leaving a majority of students reluctant to speak their opinions openly.

Indeed, a UVa Board of Visitors meeting reveals the vast administrative momentum that propels the university in its current direction, and reveals that the $150 million being withheld is barely a rounding error to a fund-raising powerhouse that rakes in billions of dollars. Consider some of the proceedings of this one board meeting.

The board of visitors were treated to an update on major capital projects underway at the university, three of which were supported by significant gifts and donations. These include:

  • School of Data Science. This 61,000-square-foot facility will include four “smart” classrooms, faculty office, meeting space, and research areas supported by “robust AV equipment” and collaborative workspaces. Estimated cost: $48 million, supported by $5.5 million in gifts and $42.5 million to repaid with future gifts and endowment earnings.
  • Smith Hall renovation. The plan is to create a lifelong learning center to create “dynamic spaces” for alumni, corporate sponsors and participants in executive education programs. Estimated cost: $14 million. Supported by $7.2 million in gifts and $6.8 million in debt to be repaid by future gifts.
  • McIntire Academic Facility. Renovation of Cobb Hall will provide 100,000 square feet of space to advance the Commerce School’s long-term growth plan with emerging technology, media production, data analytics, and visualization. Estimated cost: $101.1 million funded by debt to bridge collection of cash payments on committed philanthropic gifts.

(The practice of paying for major capital projects by borrowing against anticipated future gifts is worthy of closer scrutiny, as is the recent issuance of $600 million in bonds to back “strategic projects.”)

The Finance Committee described two new endowed professorships and honored the donors, including:

  • The John L. Nau III Bicentennial Distinguished Professorship in the History and Principles of Democracy. John L. Nau III is CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors, LP, the nation’s largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products.  His previous gift created the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History.
  • The Irfan & Noreen Galaria Research Professorship in Islam and Liberal Democracy. The couple owns Galaria Plastic Surgery and Dermatology in Northern Virginia.

Paul Manning

The board also was introduced (virtually) to Paul Manning, whose Manning Family Foundation committed $1.9 million in support of COVID-19 research efforts at the university. Manning, an Orange, Va.-based serial entrepreneur who most recently built PBM Products into a major manufacturer and distributor of off-brand baby formula, described UVa as “an incredible incubator of some of the best scientists in the world sitting in our back yard. … We need them now more than ever.”

Finally, Mark Luellan, vice president of advancement, made a “surprise” announcement. Cynthia and Heywood Fralin (who have made generous donations to Virginia Tech, incidentally) have committed $5 million, matched by $2.5 million in university funds, to endow the head football coach position. The endowment will supplement the pay of head football coach Bronco Mendenhall (who is already being paid a $500,000 salary). Assuming the endowment pays out 5%, that would add $375,000 to Mendenhall’s paycheck.

Meanwhile, the Honor the Future fund-raising campaign goes swimmingly. “Due to the generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends, the University continues to track ahead of schedule in our fundraising totals,” reported the Advancement Committee. “Through November 17, campaign-to-date totals were at $3.2 billion, with 64% achieved against the overall goal of $5B.”

Through mid-November this fiscal year, “philanthropic cash flow” is over $75 million, and total commitments stand at $91 million.

The University Advancement office is a highly sophisticated operation. Cindy Frederick, associate vice president, described its outreach efforts to the board. They include:

  • 130 faculty and staff speakers
  • 100 alumni & parent speakers
  • 105 UVa alumni clubs in cities across the U.S.
  • Mobilization of staff and student “stars”
  • 470 digital events since March, showing 71,500 registrations, a 157% year-over-year increase
  • Annual giving solicitations in 61 appeals and 20 “impact pieces.” The President’s fall direct mail solicitation generated a 48% increase in donors.

The purpose of all this “outreach” is to stimulate alumni giving, which is carefully tracked. As the presentation noted, 38% of alumni donors are described as “current giving” and 82% as “lifetime giving.”

In a nutshell, the UVa administration dangles an array of bright, shiny objects before alumni — state-of-the-art buildings, athletic programs, endowed professorships, research projects — appealing to a wide range of philanthropic interests from which to choose. Never does the propaganda machine discuss the heart and soul of the university, its culture, which increasingly embraces a leftist dogma that most alumni would find abominable.

Dissident alumni have a hard slog ahead.

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34 responses to “A Glimpse into UVa’s Fund-Raising Juggernaut

  1. Another excellent editorial, Jim.

    The ongoing efforts to honor Thomas Jefferson and restore open discourse and “intellectual diversity” at the University will take persistence and patience, but the battles are worth fighting. An adoption of the Chicago Principles (https://freeexpression.uchicago.edu/) would be an excellent first step.

    Thank you.

  2. It is a messaging factory, ignoring what is actually going on at the University for a wide range of “narratives” tailored to individual donors. If the donor likes gothic cathedrals, the University will arrange an endowed professorship of gothic religious design in the architecture school. It works. Or has.

    The proof is whether the old UVa fundraising juggernaut is still well oiled, or the returns are tapering off.

    I documented earlier that the fundraising by the Alumni Association alone had experienced a 20% decline between 2016 and 2018 from data in its 2019 Form 990, but the Alumni Association has never been the source of the big money we are discussing.

    The big money can be seen in the records of the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (UVIMCO).

    UVIMCO is organized to invest funds on behalf of the Rector and Visitors of the University and university-related foundations (like the Alumni Association).

    In 2018, the last year available for Forms 990 for the Company, its investment income net of expenses was nearly 3/4 of a billion dollars on total assets of nearly $10 billion. Over $240 million in cash. Six employees with compensation packages over a million dollars each. A senior Associate made $275,000.

    That said, it sounds like they earned their money in 2018. They provided about $450 million to the Rector and Visitors for University purposes that year.

    The question is the trends in giving. Using publicly available resources, we will always be time late to judge that. But the financial cushion is a big one.

  3. A few years ago, I stopped being a donor to my undergraduate university and my law school because they had been exhibiting increasing signs of politicization and ideological indoctrination. It was not an easy decision because I have fond memories of both schools and cherish the good education I received from both schools more than 40 years ago. Yet, the fond memories could not outweigh the negative trajectories of both schools in recent years.

    Alumni should not let positive images and lofty rhetoric obscure the current realities of their former schools. Alumni have to decide whether their fond memories of their school experiences warrant continued donations to changed institutions that do not resemble what they were in the past.

    The decision is not an easy one to make.

  4. As for Jim’s lament that “never does the propaganda machine discuss the heart and soul of the university, its culture, which increasingly embraces a leftist dogma that most alumni would find abominable,” I would expect most alumni to be as discerning as Emilio Jaksetic and be able to decide for themselves whether the “heart and soul” of the university has been lost.

  5. What is all this fund raising geared to achieve?

    The objective of this fund arising is plain as day. Yet again, I state the obvious:

    “…In short, UVA, a formerly great university, has been turned upside down at enormous public expense, financially, socially, and civically. The recent explosion of vulgarity on the Lawn is only a small part of the problem for a university whose original charter has been destroyed, and replaced by a schizophrenic monster with two missions:

    A/ One half Venture a capital research and development firm designed and built to enrich those who run “the university,” and,

    B/ the other half a leftist research and development arm of radical ideologies political action groups that are designed and built to empower the ideologues who run UVA to gain for them ever more wealth, status, and control of the political, social, and cultural life of Virginia and the nation …” This is plain to see all around us now. For more see:
    https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/orwellian-aspirations-a-false-alumni-association-narrative-and-adult-supervision-at-uva/

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    UVA should consider the New Coke vs. Classic Coca Cola switcharoo. They could double the alumni contributions and put Pepsi in the rear view mirror for good.

  7. Jim,
    Here is yet another lament about UVA. It is curious that much has been written on this blog about the supposed “cancel” culture and lack of free speech there. I do volunteer work at the school and my daughter is a graduate. I have not heard complaints about any fear to voice opinions. So, I wonder if all the talk on this blog really only involves a small circle of conservative alumni.
    You say that angry alumni are pulling back from $150 million in pledges. I ran this through the Google wash and could not find anything to confirm this. Am I missing something?
    You state as fact the “the increasing intolerance of non-leftist viewpoints that is strangling intellectual diversity and leaving a majority of students reluctant to speak their opinions openly.” Who is the source for this? If it is your opinion, fine.
    I did read the Joel Gardner letter noted in another bog posting. It was so lengthy, tortuous and boring that I couldn’t get through it. Maybe he skipped writing class.
    So, what’s the reality? A huge problem or the opinions of a little group of right wing alumni?

    • It’s a significant number of 70-year old alumni. That’s a lot of $100 checks that won’t get written.

    • Where does the $150 million figure come from? It comes from the leaders of the alumni rebellion themselves, cited in emails to which I have been privy. You won’t find anything on Google because the dominant media apparently has deemed the story of alumni backlash to be worthy of acknowledgement. Literally nothing, to my knowledge, has been written outside of Bacon’s Rebellion. (Charlottesville radio talk show host Rob Schilling has discussed the topic.) So, yes, you are missing something.

      As for evidence of the increasing intolerance of non-leftist viewpoints, if your daughter had similar views to you, she probably felt perfectly comfortable at UVa. I would not take her lack of fear to voice opinions to have any bearing on whether conservative students feel the same way. If my assumption is wrong and she is politically conservative, please correct me. If that’s the case, I’ll bet there are some interesting conversations around the Galuszka household!

    • Actually the below comment goes here as well. Just change the words ‘snow’, ‘ice’ and ‘cold” to the word ‘conservative,’ or words that are anything different from ‘leftist progressive’ and you have Peter’s perfect, safe, closed little world of utopia.

      Snow???

      Reality???

      Who needs that? It’s scarily? Cold hurts. Cold snow freezes little toes, fingers, ears, and the end of your nose.

      Plus, on snow and ice you can slip, and slide real fast, hit something? Cold is dangerous, like really, with ice, macro dangerous! And people get sued.

      It’s best we all stay inside. There, inside at home, it’s safe and it’s warm. Nothing there inside is scary or dangerous. It is safe totally, where inside at home, warm and comfy, nothing can hurt us. Perfect.

    • I can assure you Jim Bacon is correct. I started a group of alumni/ae who are enraged with the Hira Azher “protest”, “contextualization” of Thomas Jefferson, and several other of the Racial Equity Task Force edicts. He and I have seen the private emails of both major current gifts as well as estate/will bequeaths.

      It is real, I promise you. $150,000,000 is a conservative estimate. We have hundreds of signers.

  8. So I’ll take your word for it?

    • I have not seen audited statements, if that’s what you’re asking for. But please note that I did not state the $150 million figure as a fact. I said the alumni “claimed” to have withdrawn such a sum.

    • Yeah, it’s kinda like everyone saying that if they hadn’t been taxed for SocSec, they’d have invested it all and been worth millions. Sure.

    • Take it or leave it, Peter. I too went to a Jesuit high school, then UVA undergrad, then William and Mary for a MBA. My Jesuit prep school was an excellent moral and intellectually challenging environment. UVA and W&M 4 decades ago had vibrant Honor Systems.

      I don’t lie. You can choose to believe me or not. I frankly don’t care.

  9. Reed. Huh?

  10. Nancy Naive, I for one am very tired of you arrogant, elitist, dismissive statements. It is evident you get a thrill in trashing any traditional or conservative contributors to Jim’s post.

    Get off your Progressive perch, and learn some manners. Ad hominem (that’s Latin for a personal attack during an argument BTW) attacks are not becoming.

  11. As an alumnus of UVa I believe that donating to institutions of higher learning is a worthwhile action to take. Purdue and Clemson come to mind.

  12. Wahoo74. As the crow said in Dumbo”, “just to be sociable, I’ll take your word.”
    Cheers. Jumbo74

    • More apropos

      Fritz (the Cat): I know about the race problem – I’ve studied the race problem!

      Duke (a crow): You don’t know nothing about the race problem! You’ve got to be a crow to know about the race problem!

      • Must be great to have such a firm grip on perfect knowledge. The clever literary allusions with cartoon animals are particularly endearing.

        You and Peter are to be commended. I’ll leave you with one from Charles Dickens, describing people with an inherent dislike of others:

        “How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! The antipathies, I think—” —Chapter 1, Down the Rabbit-Hole

        • I am certain the university will miss your alumni association gifts, whether it is $150,000 or $150,000,000, but then, apparently, they are not gifts.

  13. Wahoo74 –

    I fear that UVA does not give much of a flip about $150 million of Alum donations by people who pledge or give money because of their love of the university based on their experience as students there. Rather, UVA is counting on an altogether different group of people, namely, venture capitalists types, who pledge or give money to UVA in return for special flavors and returns of potentially much greater value and return to the investor who is not giving at all for charity, but instead is a crony capitalist investing money as part of the suddenly powerful oligarchy that seeks to control and run America.

    Translation: UVA is no longer devoted to teaching. It’s a very big business, run for profit.

    • Elaboration to last paragraph above.

      Translation: UVA is no longer devoted to teaching. It’s a very big business, run for profit, and for power, status, and control of American society, culture and government. In this regard, teaching is a sidelight used to further UVA’s primary and overriding mission, of profits, power and control gained by those who run UVA and invest in UVA. Hence, Alumni are viewed by UVA as little more than useful idiots.

    • One must ask, “And how has it come to this, that our State colleges and universities are so… profit motivated?”

      • Nancy Naive –
        That is why you had your parking space taken away from you and given to your students. To your masters, you, the little teacher, is a nobody.

        • The Administration actually had the nerve to refer to it as a “Business Model”; that the student was the “customer”.

          My faculty meeting response was “Great! Then, surely an ‘A’ is worthy of a 15% tip.”

  14. Food for thought.

    Apparently, a group of Alumni Association donors has placed a value of $150M+ on the BoV for simply addressing:
    1) the “F— UVA” sign on the Lawn,
    2) not the purging of names from buildings and grounds, and
    3) not the increasing intolerance of non-leftist viewpoints.

    Now, given that the BoV SHOULD ACTUALLY take up these topics, then the University (aka Fund for UVa) must thus reduce by the percentage that the $150M+ represents of total contributions, the tax-deductibility of any donations.

    You have placed a quid pro quo on your donation. Good job.

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