The Campaign For MIT enters the summer poised to reach what would have seemed an unattainable goal just a few years ago: $2 billion.
Earlier this spring the campaign total hit $1.88 billion, $112 million short of the goal. It’s an achievement made all the more impressive by the fact that the other universities with $2 billion campaigns — and there aren’t many — include some with three times MIT’s total of roughly 114,000 living graduates.
Barbara Stowe, vice president for resource development, says Chuck Vest has been the key architect of MIT’s campaign success. That partly reflects his skill at encouraging support of the Institute, she says, but even more his effectiveness at conveying the importance of MIT and its mission.
“He’s spent an immense amount of time and energy representing MIT, and the research community, before many different constituencies,” she notes. Included are not only alumni and alumnae, foundations, and corporations with philanthropic programs but also the Washington political establishment, the world of higher education, and various international audiences.
So while it’s easy to point to specific philanthropic advances MIT has made during Vest’s presidency — for example, the fact that giving by MIT graduates, currently at $1.03 billion, represents a much higher percentage of total giving than in past campaigns — this risks missing the larger picture. Stowe notes, for example, that many of the ideas Vest has championed have met with an enthusiastic response from different philanthropic quarters.
One such idea is the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative. Most of the backing for this ambitious plan to put the materials from virtually every MIT course on the Web, she says, has come from foundations. “But we’re starting to see interest and support from individuals,” she adds, “and I’m sure that ultimately a number of corporations will get involved.”
Vest’s role in this and other enterprises, says Stowe, has helped make him a highly regarded figure in education. She notes that she and her peers from other top universities meet annually at one of the participating schools, and at each such gathering they meet with the host institution’s head. “Even though it’s a different president each year, I always tend to hear the same things,” says Stowe. “Number one, they’ll say how much they appreciate Chuck’s effectiveness as a spokesman for research universities. And number two, they’ll tell me how lucky I am to have him for a boss.”