Donations from College alumni shatter participation records

College alumni made contributions to the University of Chicago in record numbers this year, bringing the overall participation rate up to 40 percent.

The increase places the University among the nation's leading institutions in the rate of alumni giving. The new figure includes marked growth in the number of donors who had never given to the College and those who hadn’t given in years. College leaders attributed the rise in part to a growing sense of community among alumni, and engagement with the College’s mission.

“Each donation is a kind of vote, a commitment to becoming involved in the University’s work. It holds all of us accountable to continuing the success of the College,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. In thanking the donors, he emphasized, “Each gift has a direct effect on the ambitious, creative and academically gifted students in the College today, and on the long-term sustainability of this great university.”


Recently the alumni giving rate had hovered around 33 percent. This year’s boost is especially meaningful in light of the 80 percent participation rate for the Senior Class Gift that the Class of 2012 left to the College this Spring. Such positive trends place UChicago on track for continued growth in alumni participation.

“It is difficult to overstate the significance of reaching a mark of 40 percent alumni participation,” said Damon Cates, MBA’05, associate vice president of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. "This is a testament to the alumni and their loyalty to the University of Chicago. They have brought us to a new level with their generosity."

The College channeled most of the alumni gifts toward financial aid for undergraduates, the Career Advancement program that helps students get internships and start careers, and to study abroad programs.

This focus on investing in students helped the people who organized this year’s effort to rally behind a meaningful cause. Amy (Laird) Carbone, AB’83, national reunion chair for the College, said the sense of supporting current and future students was palpable. “This was a profoundly positive effort. It lifted the entire alumni community,” she said.

Carbone worked with each class’ leaders to reach out to their classmates with an invitation to attend Alumni Weekend and other reunion events, and to contribute to the fundraising drive.

They also were helped by a small army of undergraduates who made thousands of phone calls from the basement of the Alumni House. The push was not only successful for fundraising; record numbers of people attended Homecoming and Alumni Weekend this year.

Chairman of the University Board of Trustees Andrew M. Alper, AB’80, MBA’81, had invited all College alumni to give to UChicago with a $1 million challenge from the trustees, to be granted upon reaching the participation goals. The alumni rallied and ultimately met this challenge.

Each fundraising effort reaffirms the College's commitment to sustaining UChicago’s fundamental values through the philanthropy of alumni, Boyer said. “It's a human capital investment—we're investing in students.”