Oct. 19, 2007

CU raised $754.8 million in fiscal 2007, the most successful giving year in its history, Skorton says in university address

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Cornell capped its most successful fundraising year in its history, with $754.8 million in new gifts and commitments, President David Skorton reported in his annual State of the University address Oct. 19.

In addition, he told a capacity audience in Statler Auditorium that the Cornell Annual Fund reached a record level of $18.4 million during the fiscal year -- a 29 percent increase over fiscal 2006.

With characteristic warmth and self-deprecation, Skorton promised his audience, who were on campus for Trustee/Council Weekend, that their devotion to Cornell would not be in vain. "We will uphold your confidence. We will make you proud to invest in Cornell," he said.

The monetary gifts Cornell has received since launching the $4 billion "Far Above ..." campaign last year have been "extraordinary," Skorton said. To date, $1.78 billion has been raised for both the Ithaca and New York City campuses, and this week the Ithaca portion of the campaign surpassed the $1 billion mark.

Weill Cornell Medical College just completed its best fundraising year ever for an American medical college, "catapulted," Skorton said, by a $300 million gift from Joan and Sanford Weill, which also included $50 million for the Life Sciences Technology Building now taking shape on the Ithaca campus. The $162 million, 250,000-square-foot building, it was announced in June, will be named Weill Hall in recognition of the gift.

"These results are truly remarkable and demonstrate the extraordinary commitment of many individuals," Skorton said.

He took time to thank specific donors, particularly in the area of the humanities and social sciences. He said Cornell has received a total of $61.5 million from several distinguished alumni -- including $15 million anonymously from a third-generation Cornellian -- in support of "groundbreaking" programs in the humanities, arts and social sciences.

And Skorton implored the audience to double the amount they have already invested in Cornell in order to reach the $4 billion goal. He said he was making the request in the context of the many recent achievements of Cornell faculty, students and staff, as well as the coming challenges the university faces.

Skorton celebrated a long list of accolades and achievements at Cornell, among them: progress on the West Campus Residential Initiative; academic successes of students and faculty; and ongoing international partnerships, such as a new Master of Professional Studies degree program at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia.

Among the challenges, he stressed the importance he and others at Cornell place on diversity, and he summarized a recent Teagle Foundation study of minority achievement in higher education.

The study found that average differences in college success among racial and ethnic groups are not just a reflection of differences present at the time of admission, but of differences in aspects of the college experience, Skorton explained.

Of the 14 diversity programs the Teagle Foundation subsequently recommended that schools implement, Cornell is already conducting three, Skorton said. He encouraged people to visit the university's diversity Web site, linked from Cornell.edu, to learn more about diversity initiatives at Cornell.

Equally challenging, he said, will be the recruitment of Cornell's next generation of faculty. Within the next 10 years about 600 current faculty members are expected to retire, yet Cornell is committed to maintaining Cornell's breadth and depth, as well as to increase diversity and enter new areas of intellectual opportunity. Skorton highlighted a handful of the 84 successful new faculty hires from 2006-07, of which 28 are women and 15 are from minority groups.

Skorton closed his address by describing the recent formation of the Center for a Sustainable Future, envisioned as a means of addressing problems of energy, environment and economic development in terms of sustainability.

Sharing the auditorium stage with Skorton were Ronni Chernoff, chairwoman of the University Council, and Peter Meinig, chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees.