The Johns Hopkins University will unfurl a $900 million fund-raising push today with the announcement that a trustee and his wife have pledged $20 million for the main campus' library.
The $20 million promise from R. Champlin and Debbie Sheridan offers a splashy start to what will be a daunting challenge for Hopkins glad-handers.
Mr. Sheridan said he would transfer $20 million in stock in his Hanover, Pa., printing business to the university, which will sell the holdings to Sheridan employees. The university will use the money to renovate and endow the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Homewood campus.
"You almost can think in terms of infinity with this gift," Mr. Sheridan said yesterday. "There are not very many things we do that ever have a remote chance of doing that."
"It's a wonderful kickoff gift to be able to announce," Hopkins President William C. Richardson said earlier this week.
Another anchor gift for the Johns Hopkins Initiative is aimed at encouraging other donors. Baltimore philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger said in 1992 that his family's foundation would match, dollar for dollar, up to $50 million for Hopkins' College of Arts and Sciences.
The $900 million, to be raised in gifts and pledges by February 2000, would provide funding for facilities, including, for example, laboratories for Dr. Bert Vogelstein, the Hopkins physician who identified a gene that causes colon cancer while he worked in a converted grocery store in East Baltimore.
"He has a whole team of specialists whom he would like to move out of the grocery store," said Dr. James A. Block, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. The drive intends to attract funds to expand the medical campus, including a new cancer center and a cardiovascular unit boasting a new emergency room.
But the overall effort, Hopkins officials said, provides less a vision for the future than a promise to balance the books, right now.
Robert R. Lindgren, Hopkins vice president for development and alumni relations, said the college needs more money for its endowment, the investment pool that generates millions of dollars for each year's budget and assures the school's financial independence.
For five straight years, the university ran deficits totaling in the millions. That stretch ended with the last school year, when Hopkins notched a slight surplus, spokesman Dennis O'Shea said. Officials have used endowment money to cover shortfalls.
The endowment, mostly representing holdings in stocks and real estate, measured $725 million as of June 30, 1993. It earns about 11 percent a year, but more than half -- 6 percent to 7 percent -- is funneled to subsidize the campus' yearly operations.
That level of payout does not allow the endowment to rise at a rate high enough to pay for each year's growth in costs.
Hopkins officials want both to increase the dollars flowing to the campus each year and to hold on to enough income so that the endowment grows faster than expenses.
Figuring out exactly what the money will be used for remains a challenge, even for Hopkins officials. Slightly more than half the total -- $455 million -- is tabbed for Hopkins' medical empire, including its hospitals and its medical center, officials said.
The initiative includes $75 million toward construction of a $140 million cancer center on North Broadway, a promise the hospital made after a commitment of $30.5 million from the state of Maryland.
With the prospect of cuts in reimbursements to research and teaching hospitals looming in the future, more private dollars will be needed to support the medical center's operations, Dr. Block said.
In preparation for today's announcement, Hopkins fund-raisers have already nabbed $274 million in gifts and pledges for new efforts since July 1991, when the newly arrived Dr. Richardson and his staff first began to gear up for the campaign.
Mr. Lindgren said there are now 177 people working in development and alumni affairs divisions throughout Hopkins.
LARGEST HOPKINS GIFTS
* $50 million, for the School of Arts and Sciences endowment, Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, 1992
* $20 million, for the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, R. Champlin and Debbie Sheridan, 1994
* $17.7 million, for Johns Hopkins Hospital, estate of Glenn Stewart, 1982
* $10.2 million, in real estate, for unrestricted use, Elizabeth Banks, 1989
* $9.1 million, School of Arts and Sciences humanities programs, estate of James R. Herbert Boone, 1983