The campaign for MIT has come through an unsettled financial period with results that, while less than those of recent past years, are still impressive.
Gifts and pledges for the most recent fiscal year totaled $202.5 million — below comparable figures for earlier campaign years but about twice those of typical mid-90s results.
Individual giving, as earlier in the campaign, led the way at $135.7 million. Foundation support totaled $31 million, and corporate giving was at $35.7 million. The campaign as a whole hit $1.66 billion, closer than ever to its $2 billion goal.
But what about its practical effects? Those, says Larry Benedict, dean for student life, have been numerous and invaluable.
MIT has always put a premium on academic innovation. Under the umbrella of the student life and learning campaign priority, several million dollars have been raised to that end.
Until recently, though, efforts on the student life side — which includes student residence programs, and leadership and teambuilding activities — had been less systematic. But that’s changed, says Benedict.
“Although MIT has one of the toughest academic environments in the world,” he notes, “most students are involved in multiple activities outside of class.” The Institute has been working to make sure these pursuits give students a wide range of options for exploiting their talents and honing new skills.
Campaign contributors have responded, and one result has been some highly visible projects: the Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, named for Al Zesiger, an alumnus, and his wife Barrie; and Simmons Hall, named in memory of Dorothy Simmons, late wife of alumnus Richard P. Simmons.
But donors have also enabled the MIT Public Service Center — which creates service opportunities that suit the MIT culture while meeting community needs — to expand its offerings. Examples include Science Expo, which brings Cambridge seventh- and eighth-graders to MIT to talk about their science projects with students here; and Communitech, through which MIT students refurbish older computers for distribution to the disadvantaged.
Similarly, donors have solidified the financial status of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP.) The program, which has sustained federal funding cutbacks, matches students interested in leading edge research with faculty lab directors. Current projects include creating software that lets the blind take virtual tours of buildings they plan to visit, and developing a stair-climbing wheelchair.
Gifts fostering such activity, says Benedict, have real benefits for students. “Do you know how much you learn running a service organization, being the captain of a team, or president of a student organization? It’s hard to quantify, but if you ask the students themselves, they’ll tell you it’s as valuable as their classroom work.”