Dots of light danced across the facade of Royce Hall on Thursday night, slowly combining to form images of UCLA’s iconic campus locations and figures.
“It all began with an idea,” a voice boomed to a crowd of donors, administrators and students gathered in Royce Quad.
Images of accomplished members of the UCLA community flashed across the face of Royce Hall, taking the audience through the last century of the university’s history.
Thursday marked the official launch of UCLA’s Centennial Campaign, which aims to raise $4.2 billion for the university by the end of 2019.
Campaign efforts began, but were not publicly announced, in 2012 and about $1.3 billion has already been raised toward the final fundraising goal.
The campaign is co-chaired by Garen Staglin, a UCLA alumnus and private equity investor, and Anthony Pritzker, co-founder of the Pritkzer group, a major investment group.
The campaign slogan, “Let There Be …” is a nod to the University of California slogan “Let There Be Light.”
A reception and presentation in Royce Hall kicked off the fundraising campaign Thursday evening for about 600 major donors and top UCLA faculty and administrators.
Performances by musicians, dancers and the UCLA marching band were interspersed with comments from members of the UCLA community explaining how the university impacted their lives.
Children from the UCLA Lab School joined renowned astronomer Andrea Ghez in asking the audience to “let there be optimism.”
Former UCLA football player Nick Ekbatani spoke about how a taxi crashed into his motorcycle, causing him to lose a limb and ending his athletic career.
“Let there be impossible barriers,” Ekbatani told the crowd. “Because Bruins will overcome them.”
The lofty fundraising goal is, in part, a reaction to continuously decreasing state funding. State support now represents about 23 percent of UCLA’s core budget, but the school was once primarily funded by the state.
Gov. Jerry Brown increased funding to the University of California system in the past two years, after more than four years of funding cuts.
California residents voted in 2012 to approve Proposition 30, which raised income and sales taxes to help fund education. The initiative, combined with higher state revenues, allowed the state to increase the UC’s funds for the next fiscal year and maintain tuition levels for the following year.
“The future is not dim for UCLA, but the financial mindset is changing,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said.
The university can no longer rely on unpredictable state funding, Block said. UCLA officials are looking to other sources of revenue, including federal support, international property, online classes and philanthropy.
In the build up to UCLA’s 100th anniversary, officials are asking alumni and donors to look back on the last century’s progress and invest in the future of the institution. Funds raised will be funneled into the university endowment, student scholarships, research programs and capital projects, among other interests.
By the end of the campaign, undergraduate student scholarships, graduate student fellowships and faculty support efforts will receive $500 million each to help break down the financial barriers that restrict some students from attending UCLA.
“We want to take financial needs out of the equation that required scholarship support,” Block said. “Making sure we remain an economically diverse campus requires scholarships.”
The university hopes to raise $1.65 billion through the campaign for research projects and other innovations.
“The bolder the idea, the more private support it takes,” Block said. “If you want to do really exciting things and tackle big problems, you have to start with private support.”
Officials from Operation Mend and other UCLA scientists spoke at Thursday’s event about how they hope to expand their programs with more donations.
About $800 million will be used to upgrade or build new campus facilities, such as the aging School of Theater, Film and Television.
The capital project funds will also contribute to a new training facility for student athletes and new learning centers at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The fundraising campaign aims to increase the $2.6 billion UCLA endowment by at least $1.3 billion, said Rhea Turteltaub, the vice chancellor for external affairs. Money in an endowment is set aside and only a portion of the returned investment is utilized, giving the university a financial support system to fall back on in the face of fluctuating state funding.
“The idea is that maybe we can double from where we started. We would like to have a $5 billion endowment when we’re done,” Turteltaub said. “It helps secure the resources of an institution.”
As a comparatively young institution, UCLA has a much smaller endowment than its competitors. The small funding source makes it difficult for the university to compete with other top schools.
The University of Pennsylvania has about $7.7 billion and Stanford University has about $18.6 billion in their endowments. The University of Virginia, where Block served as provost before coming to UCLA in 2007, has a $5.9 billion endowment, which helped sustain the university when state funding decreased significantly after a drop in the economy after 9/11, Block said.
The remaining $250 million is not earmarked for any project in particular, and is meant to remain flexible to cover the university’s future costs.
Turteltaub said the university intends to maintain its momentum of roughly $400 million to $600 million worth of annual donations through the end of the campaign and spike alumni and donor interest with several events throughout UCLA’s centennial year, 2019.
As the night drew to an end, the images projected on Royce Hall slowly dimmed. But as the light died, hundreds of students crowded on the steps of Royce Hall could be heard breaking into an 8-clap.