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Northwestern Announces $3.75 Billion Campaign

Fundraising campaign to address society’s challenges and prepare global leaders

In exciting celebrations before purple-clad audiences in Evanston and Chicago, Northwestern University today (March 14, 2014) announced a $3.75 billion fundraising initiative called We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern.

President Morton Schapiro and Provost Daniel Linzer kicked off the Campaign, speaking at separate simultaneous events on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. A series of student, faculty and alumni speakers on each campus -- and two very different videos -- demonstrated what makes Northwestern so special.

A centerpiece video showcasing the breadth and impact of Northwestern’s talent and scholarship locally and globally highlighted the ceremonies, but a surprise video by two of Northwestern’s best-known alums -- Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers -- brought down the house.

Standing on a purple-lit stage in the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston before an audience of nearly 1,000, President Schapiro gave an overview of the Campaign’s ambitious goals to raise the necessary resources to make a great University even greater. 

He stressed the meaning behind the name of the campaign: We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, emphasizing confidence in the University’s ability as a community and “determination to make the world better.”

“We didn’t call it ‘we might,’” he said. “We didn’t call it ‘we should.’ We called it ‘we will.’“

President Schapiro gave special thanks to the University’s deans as Provost Linzer did at the Chicago event.  

The Campaign will impact “each one of us directly,” Provost Linzer told the Chicago audience of several hundred, packing Hughes Auditorium and filling the aisles and staircases in the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center. He noted the strategic planning process identified areas of distinctive strength for Northwestern that cut across schools, departments and disciplines.  

“The Campaign will fund investments in the people, facilities, research, programs, libraries and information services that will enhance your ability to excel and discover, to imagine and pioneer, to lead and transform,” Linzer said.

 “This monumental Campaign seeks to amplify Northwestern’s local and global impact --  in everything from breakthrough research discoveries to innovations in creative expression to preparing the global leaders of tomorrow,” President Schapiro said earlier. “We will unite as a university community to build an even better Northwestern and to address society’s most critical challenges.”

We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is a University-wide, multiyear effort that will support initiatives across all of Northwestern’s schools, as well as Northwestern Medicine and a range of University units and programs. Gifts will fund new and renovated facilities on the Evanston and Chicago campuses; endowed professorships; student scholarships and fellowships; laboratories and research support; new academic centers and institutes; curriculum expansion and academic program support; global initiatives; and other areas that will solidify Northwestern’s position among the world’s leading research universities.  

The University has already raised $1.52 billion toward the Campaign goal, Schapiro said.

The Campaign has a second goal to broaden the University’s base of annual support among alumni, parents and friends -- as reflected by 140,995 donors making a gift during the Campaign. A total of 85,832 donors have made a gift during the early phase of the Campaign.

“This Campaign will help realize our transformative strategic plan, ‘Northwestern Will,’ which we launched in 2011,” Schapiro said. “The extraordinary early support for the Campaign reflects how well our bold vision for the future is resonating with our alumni, parents and friends.”

In their mischievous and very Northwestern-centric video, School of Communication alumni Colbert, '86, and Meyers, '96, sat side by side at the anchor desk of the "The Colbert Report" set and joked their way through a hilarious promotion of the Campaign.

"We're both proud Northwestern alumni," said Colbert, the satirist who is widely known as the outrageous host of Comedy Central’s ‘The Colbert Report.”  

“Go fighting Wildcats,” said Meyers, who recently took the helm of his new NBC show, “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” after years as head writer and Weekend Update anchor for “Saturday Night Live” (SNL). 

Making great fun of their beloved alma mater, the pair did a riff on the Northwestern claw cheer, pawing at one another, making less-than-fierce cat noises.

In a different but no less compelling take on the Northwestern experience, a wide-ranging Campaign centerpiece video took viewers from classrooms to Design for America projects to cutting-edge research labs and projects that span the globe. 

In advance of the celebration, President Schapiro said, “The Campaign is called ‘We Will,’ because it connects directly with the strategic plan name, and it reflects the strong confidence we have in Northwestern and all that we are poised to accomplish.”

The Campaign aims to secure resources to implement the four priorities that stem from the University’s strategic plan:

Discovery and Creativity (Target of $1.2 billion). Expanding Northwestern’s research enterprise and creative platforms by investing in facilities for biomedical research, innovation and entrepreneurship, performance and collaborative learning. Also, attracting and retaining top researchers and faculty through endowed professorships. Some of the major initiatives include:

  • New biomedical research building on the Chicago campus
  • New global hub for Kellogg School of Management and the department of economics on the Evanston campus
  • Endowment for the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern
  • Endowment for the International Institute for Nanotechnology

Student Experience (Target of $1.163 billion). Increasing financial aid for undergraduate, graduate and professional students in order to attract the best students, regardless of their financial resources. At the same time, broadening students’ academic perspectives through experiential learning and solving real-world problems. Some of the major initiatives include:

  • Office of Undergraduate Research
  • Good Neighbor, Great University Scholarship Program
  • Fellowships for graduate students
  • University Career Services

Campus and Community (Target of $1.162 billion). Inspiring students who are committed to serving their communities while creating connections through shared traditions and activities in the arts, athletics and academics. Some of the major initiatives include:

  • New lakefront athletics and recreation complex on the Evanston campus
  • Deering Library renovation and transformation
  • New visitors center on the Evanston campus
  • New music and communication building on the Evanston campus

Global Connections (Target of $225 million). Expanding the curricula and programs that advance understanding of other languages, cultures and systems. Also, providing additional opportunities for students to study and do research abroad, and strengthening Northwestern’s initiatives in its local communities and in other countries. Some of the major initiatives include:

  • Scholarships for international students
  • Department of Asian languages and cultures
  • Study abroad programs
  • The Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools

“Our strategic plan builds on Northwestern’s core attributes: our entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit; interdisciplinary collaboration; an energetic community of students, scholars and alumni; a dual passion for research and teaching; and an intense desire to put ideas into practice for the greater good,” Schapiro said. “We now have an opportunity to use these considerable strengths to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges and prepare our remarkable students to be the visionary leaders that the world needs.”

The Campaign Steering Committee is led by Campaign Co-Chairs Neil Bluhm, Chris and Courtney Combe, Adam Karr, Lanny and Sharon Martin, and Patrick and Shirley Welsh Ryan. (See attached for more information about the committee members.)

Northwestern today unveiled new leadership gifts to the Campaign, including:

  • A $40 million unrestricted gift from alumni Mark and Kimbra Walter. The University intends to use the gift to fund initiatives pertaining to We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, including significant support for Northwestern Athletics and Recreation, as well as scholarships for the School of Law.
  • Gifts totaling $25 million from the Querrey Simpson Charitable Foundation in support of the University’s innovative, interdisciplinary research efforts applying nanotechnology to regenerative medicine. In recognition of the gift, the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine (IBNAM) will be renamed the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine.

Established in 2000, the institute draws clinicians, scientists and engineers from across the University to work together on the challenges of regenerative nanomedicine: using nanoscale technology or materials to seek ways to repair, replace or regenerate tissues or organs and to improve human health.

  • A $15 million gift from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to fund multiple initiatives including undergraduate and graduate scholarships, launching an immersion journalism program focused on issues of social justice and advancing the field of reconstruction and restorative surgery to assist men and women seriously wounded in combat.
  • A $7.5 million gift from the Shaw family to the Program in Plant Biology and Conservation, a collaboration between Northwestern and the Chicago Botanic Garden. The gift will fund fellowships for graduate students in the program, which was launched by Northwestern’s Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 2005 to address a critical shortage of botanists and plant conservationists.

We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern aims to raise more than twice the $1.55 billion received during the University’s last major fundraising effort, which took place from 1996 to 2003.


Comments from speakers at the Evanston celebration:

• Ani Ajith, a Northwestern senior and president of the Associated Student Government, said the student experience is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

“At Northwestern we’re used to carving our own path,” Ajith said. “We get to build new products, new ideas, new initiatives and new ways to express ourselves. It’s something that’s not only possible but encouraged at Northwestern.”

• Sanford (Sandy) Goldberg, chair and professor of philosophy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, shared words of wisdom about Northwestern carrying on learning traditions that go back to the ancient Greeks.

"Northwestern holds out to us the very same prospect that tantalized Socrates in the Athenian marketplace more than two millennia ago: to use our intellects in our best attempt to discover what is true, to discover what is right, to discover what is good and to discover what is beautiful,” he said.

Goldberg, who was actively engaged in the strategic planning process, said he couldn't pretend to Socratic wisdom. “But I do have something whose value Socrates himself would have appreciated. I have a community of students, teachers, scholars, researchers, staff and alumni whose curiosity and imagination are matched by our ambition and our dedication. Please join me in support of our great and noble endeavor."

• Chris Combe, Campaign Steering Committee co-chair, welcomed the audience and spoke about his personal family connections to Northwestern.

“This University has been important to my family literally, for generations, and giving back to Northwestern was something passed on to me from my father,” Combe said.

“He came to the University on a scholarship during the Great Depression and Northwestern really embraced him -- that is where it all began for our family. The opportunities that have been given first to my father, but also to me, to my sister and to our two daughters are why my wife, Courtney, and I remain so committed to seeing it thrive.”

• Adam Karr, participation co-chair of the Campaign Steering Committee, said he was the first in his family to go to college and the experience was “game-changing.

“Northwestern really changed the entire arc of my life,” Karr said. “Growing up in my community, I didn't feel like I had a lot of options. When I was accepted to Northwestern University and given a scholarship, I realized what an opportunity I had.

“Northwestern gave me a lot -- an education, career stepping stones, but more than anything, a community,” he added. “I think it's important to help create those opportunities for other people. That's why I give. Collectively, we have the power to make a difference in people's lives on a scale like never before with this Campaign.”

• Courtney Combe, Campaign co-chair, summed up her, her husband’s and Karr’s sentiments, as the three took turns at the microphone. “Adam, Chris and I all know that Northwestern can change lives,” she said. And this is why we're here, leading this Campaign.

“Looking around this room, we see people who will help shape the world,” added Courtney Combe. “You have a chance to make a powerful statement about Northwestern. Giving to this Campaign is an opportunity to signal your belief in the University's mission and where it is headed.”


Comments from speakers at the Chicago celebration:

• Melina Kibbe, professor of surgery, spoke about how she benefitted from the collaborative, multidisciplinary environment fostered at Northwestern. Among her examples, she noted her interdisciplinary research with Sam Stupp, the director of what is now the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querry Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine, and Shad Thaxton in urology.

The three scientists are working on a “Star Trek” project, in which they are trying to develop a suite of delivery vehicles that can be injected into an IV in a patient immediately following a vascular procedure.  

“The technology would be smart, travel through your blood stream, target to the site of the vascular intervention and release a drug that would promote vascular health and help patients,“ Kibbe said.

• First-year JD-MBA student Christa Seid shared her experiences as both a law and business school student at Northwestern. 

“There is a unique culture here, extraordinary opportunities and people who really want you to succeed,” Seid said. “These people include thousands of donors whose gifts, of all sizes, ensure that students have the best possible experience.”

• Campaign co-chair Lanny Martin said his active role in this campaign is an opportunity to “pay it forward.”

“I entered Northwestern in the fall of 1964 after growing up in a small town in Nebraska and was fortunate enough to get a need-based scholarship that a donor gave during a campaign,” said Martin, also a 1973 graduate of the Northwestern University School of Law and a University trustee.

By meeting the goals of this campaign, Martin said more of the very best students will have access to a Northwestern education and be prepared to take on the greatest challenges of the present and future.


More information on the Campaign is available at

Case Statement on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern (PDF)

FAQ on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern (PDF)

Northwestern Unveils Leaders and Campaign Steering Committee

Mark and Kimbra Walter Give $40 Million to Northwestern

McCormick Foundation Donates $15 Million to Northwestern

$7.5 Million Gift to Help Budding Plant Conservationists

$25 Million Gift to Expand Regenerative Medicine Research

- Storer H. Rowley and Pat Vaughan Tremmel contributed to this article.