UC Irvine Douglas Hospital
UC Irvine Douglas Hospital's completion was made possible by a $21 million gift from the estate of M.A. Douglas. It was among the largest gifts received by any U.S. university in 2009. Rendering courtesy University Advancement

The largest fundraising effort in the history of Orange County has just passed its midpoint – reaching $512 million on the way to its $1 billion goal.

Spearheaded by the UC Irvine Foundation, the Shaping the Future campaign strives to generate private support for undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to help students who meet UCI’s rigorous academic admission standards but cannot afford to attend or continue their studies here.

Chancellor Michael Drake said the campaign’s success is a testament to the commitment and vision of donors. “We have seen the largest cash gift in UCI’s history and a substantial and gratifying increase in the number of people giving to the university. This is especially heartwarming during these very difficult economic times,” he said.

The Shaping the Future project takes on added importance this year as students and families cope with UC-wide fee increases. “I’m pleased that more than 2,000 student scholarships have been funded so far, and major efforts are under way to produce even greater support for our students,” Drake added.

As of mid-March, the university had received more than $512 million for the campaign from over 100,000 donors. Campus initiatives funded under Shaping the Future are detailed at www.UCIFuture.com. Publicly announced in October 2008, the campaign continues through 2015 – the 50th anniversary of UCI’s founding.

“This is a remarkable achievement by our donors, who have been inspired by the leadership of the UC Irvine Foundation,” said Tom Mitchell, vice chancellor of advancement. “Our fundraising totals are ahead of schedule, and we’re excited about continuing the momentum.”

James Mazzo, president of Abbott Medical Optics and chairman of the UC Irvine Foundation, said the campaign is successful because UCI has a strong and compelling vision for its future, a confident and flexible game plan and a commitment to joining the ranks of the nation’s top universities.

“UCI is making a difference in things that really matter to people: world-class medical care, new energy and environmental technologies, cognitive science and education, and keeping California at the forefront of global culture and business,” he said.

The university received its largest-ever cash gift last year, a $21 million donation that completed the $50 million fundraising campaign for its new hospital. Named UC Irvine Douglas Hospital in honor of the donor, the state-of-the-art facility is part of Orange County’s only academic medical center – UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange. The gift was among the largest to any U.S. university last year.

The new hospital treats patients with complex and rare disorders; is outfitted with lifesaving, minimally invasive technology; and has introduced family-friendly design for patient rooms. UC Irvine Douglas Hospital is also among the few new hospitals in the nation to include a special unit devoted to medical discovery.

“I know all of us in the foundation are pleased to have been able to complete the campaign for UC Irvine Douglas Hospital. It’s a wonderful example of what the university brings to this region of California and the world – and an example of how the Shaping the Future campaign is making a difference,” Mazzo said.

Mitchell said UC Irvine Foundation leadership is the critical driver of the university’s campaign.

“We’ve been fortunate to have many of the best minds and strongest philanthropists in the nation guide us through a period of recession with deep and complex economic challenges,” he said.

As at other universities across the country, gifts to UCI are affected by the strength of the stock market, health of the economy and tax laws. Mitchell said those factors result in slower gift decisions and donors wishing to restructure pledge payments or make longer-term pledges.

“We’ve had great success in taking the time to listen very closely to the challenges donors are facing and being flexible by personally working with them,” he said. “They’re committed to seeing the great work of the university continue, so we must understand the situations they face and help them continue to achieve their desire to invest in UCI.”