As the academic year winds down, the prospects for a successful conclusion to The Campaign for MIT are looking very good.

The campaign total has reached $1.64 billion against a goal of $2 billion. This puts it far ahead of where its organizers imagined it would be at this point in the drive, says Barbara Stowe, vice president for resource development. Some specific aspects of the campaign, she adds, are especially positive.

As of May 31 – the most recent date for which these figures are available – gifts and pledges from individuals for the fiscal year totaled $119 million, up from $99 million in Fiscal Year 2002. A sluggish economy and unsettled geopolitical situation, though, have also slowed the pace of recent giving.

“We feel fortunate to have sustained the momentum of the campaign through these difficult economic and political times,” says Stowe. “The last few months have seen a slowdown in new commitments, but that’s not surprising and is consistent with the current fund-raising environment nationwide.

“On balance,” she adds, “we continue to see remarkable results. Many people seem to be even more keenly aware of MIT’s strengths than usual, and they have been prepared to make gifts despite the uncertainty.”

Stowe predicts the precedent-setting support MIT has enjoyed in this campaign will resume when the economic situation improves. Provost Robert Brown agrees, adding that the campaign’s increasingly obvious impact will also help.

He says the campaign’s impact on MIT’s fellowship picture is a case in point. Prior to the campaign there were 139 endowed fellowships at MIT. That total is up by 81, or an impressive 58 percent.

Fellowships play a key role in drawing top candidates for graduate study, says Brown. That, in turn, has broader implications. “Our faculty don’t come here for the weather or the buildings,” he says. “They come because they know the people they’re going to work with are as good as they are – and that includes their graduate students.”

Yet while pleased by the progress on graduate student support, Brown says more fellowships are badly needed. “In many ways, graduate students are the glue that holds this place together,” he notes. “They work together across disciplines, and the result is many of the interdisciplinary initiatives that have been critical to our success.”