As we enter the final year of Aspire: A Plan for Princeton, I thought I would report on our progress to date and reflect on the impact that the campaign has already had on the University. I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to all who have shared their energies, time, and resources in support of our campaign and the aspirations it embodies.
Like the three campaigns that preceded it, Aspire is a ringing affirmation of Tiger loyalty and generosity. Since 2005, we have received 216,258 gifts from 61,054 donors, including a remarkable 73.3 percent of undergraduate alumni. As of June 30, we have drawn within $270 million of our $1.75 billion target, and we have reached this point despite the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression! Annual Giving, which lies at the heart of our campaign, has been a major engine of this progress, generating more than $50 million in unrestricted funds in 2010–11 alone. I am especially heartened by the response of young alumni, who even in this difficult economic climate have answered Princeton’s call. Last year, the average participation rate among the 10 youngest classes exceeded that of alumni as a whole by almost 10 percent, surely the most compelling evidence I can muster that the University continues to serve its students well. In the course of the campaign, we have also received a wide range of exceptionally generous capital gifts, including transformative investments by Peter Lewis ’55 and Gerhard Andlinger ’52 in the creative and performing arts and energy and the environment, respectively. Large or small, however, every gift matters, and, together, they have already had a major impact on our University community.
Under the leadership of campaign co-chairs Bob Murley ’72 and Nancy Peretsman ’76, our legendary army of volunteers and staff is working hard to reach our campaign goals, but, in the final analysis, campaigns are not ends in themselves but rather a means to a larger end. The end, in this case, is the education of thoughtful and effective leaders and the generation of new knowledge, not for their own sakes, but to make our world a more humane, secure, and vital place for all. This, in turn, demands a standard of excellence that campaigns are tailor-made to foster. Under the aegis of Aspire, we have formally defined our highest priorities in order to enhance what we now do well, improve upon areas where we fall short of our high expectations, and break new ground in strategic areas. I often say that my primary role as president is to serve as Princeton’s foremost cheerleader and its most exacting critic, and campaigns are a golden opportunity to both build upon past achievements and embark upon new opportunities or, as this year’s valedictorian, John Pardon ’11, put it, “to look for the challenge rather than for the comfortable.”
As we began the campaign, we identified five areas where Princeton is well positioned to grow and where, in fact, we must grow if we hope to remain a great university. Specifically, Aspire seeks to provide an “equity of experience” for every student by extending our historic financial aid program to campus opportunities for study and work abroad, regardless of family circumstances; to expand our capacities in engineering and environmental science to find green energy sources and to protect the environment; to place Princeton in the “service of the imagination” by significantly expanding ways for students to explore the creative and performing arts; to strengthen the engagement of students and faculty with the world; and to assume a leading role in the exciting field of neuroscience, as well as other scientific areas.
This is an ambitious agenda, but thanks to you, we are well on our way to fulfilling it. I have already alluded to the Lewis Center for the Arts and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, but we can also point with pride and gratitude to scholarships and professorships that have kept our student and faculty bodies strong; to the phoenix-like rebirth of Butler College; to major academic initiatives, beginning with the very first gift to Aspire—a pledge from Dennis Keller ’63 and his wife Connie that has endowed the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education; to our groundbreaking Bridge Year Program; and to new buildings and facilities, not the least of which is the future home of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Department of Psychology.
A final—and critically important—benefit of this campaign is the opportunity it offers alumni, parents, and friends to renew their ties to Princeton and to join our faculty and staff in defining its future. The Connect Initiative, for example, has enabled black alumni to both expand and focus their support for their alma mater.
All this and more Aspire is achieving, and I invite you to join—or increase your involvement in—our campaign, ensuring that Princeton can embrace the challenges of the 21st century while reinforcing its historic strengths in the service of this nation and all nations. As I tell every class at Commencement, let us together aim high and be bold!