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University of Maryland, public university system have landmark fundraising year

UM President Wallace Loh
(Baltimore Sun file photo)

The University of Maryland raised $195 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30, officials said Wednesday, or about $55 million more than the goal.

Peter Weiler, the vice president for university relations, credited a record-breaking $31 million donation from alumnus Brendan Iribe, CEO of the technology firm Oculus VR, which he said helped spark interest among the rest of the donor base. He said 41,000 people contributed money to the state's flagship campus in College Park during the 2015 fiscal year, 7,000 more than in the previous year.

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"It has an enormous effect on other people when people like Brendan say they believe so much in what you're doing that they'll invest this kind of money," Weiler said. "That sends a very strong signal. It's a very positive message."

The estimate, which won't be finalized until later this month, puts the university more than $52 million above its fundraising total in fiscal 2014, and $80 million higher than the year before that.

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For fiscal 2016, Weiler said, the school is looking at a goal of between $160 million and $165 million.

"This year gives us a lot of confidence that we have some very generous donors who clearly believe in our leadership and our vision," Weiler said.

Across the University System of Maryland as a whole, "very preliminary" numbers suggest a total of at least $305 million, according to the system's vice chancellor for advancement, about $43 million more than the goal.

"It's really exceeded the goal by quite a bit, which is great," Vice Chancellor Leonard Raley said. "There's been a growing culture of philanthropy across the university system. The leadership at our institutions have paid more attention to the importance of growing the fundraising efforts and the success of our institutions is leading to more people wanting to contribute."

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The University of Baltimore had reached 136 percent of its goal by the end of May, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County was at 112 percent, the University System of Maryland reported last month. Coppin State University was at 86 percent; Bowie State was at 96 percent.

Greg Simmons, vice president for institutional advancement at UMBC, said the school expects to end the year with more than $20 million, almost doubling its $11.5 million goal.

Some schools still trailed behind their targets. Towson University expects to end the fiscal year at about 70 percent of its $10 million goal, said Gary Rubin, the vice president for university advancement.

"You always want to raise more money," Rubin said. "But in light of the economy and so forth, we're feeling pretty good."

Iribe's gift to the University of Maryland, which will go toward construction of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, came alongside a $25 million donation from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank to kickstart the $155 million transformation of Cole Field House into an indoor football facility, entrepreneurship center and sports medicine research center.

Without those two gifts, the university would have fallen just shy of its $140 million goal for fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30.

Weiler said the Terps' successes on the field during their first year in the Big Ten Conference, during which it won seven championships, also "created buzz and a sense of momentum" among donors.

The university's fundraising lags behind that of several of its conference rivals. The University of Michigan raised $432 million in fiscal 2014, according to the Council for Aid to Education. Indiana University brought in $341 million.

Maryland President Wallace Loh has increased the fundraising budget by roughly $4 million in the last two years, Weiler said, allowing 25 "frontline fundraisers" to be hired.

"We have more people talking to more donors," Weiler said. "We're spending more time on that task, and people are responding."

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