University News

Under Paxson, admins look toward new capital campaign

By and
News Editor and Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The University’s next capital campaign will be contingent on priorities to be outlined by the six strategic planning committees established earlier this fall, President Christina Paxson told The Herald. The University has not yet set a fundraising goal or concrete timeline for the campaign, Paxson said, adding that both of those questions will be addressed after new Senior Vice President for Advancement Patricia Watson assumes office Dec. 1.

Administrators have in the past suggested that a capital campaign – often seen as one of the defining elements of a University presidency – could be tied to the celebration of the University’s 250th anniversary, which will begin May 2014.

“It makes sense to try to take advantage of the natural publicity that’ll come from something as impressive as a 250th birthday party,” said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15.

At the October faculty meeting, Paxson spoke about the need to raise $500 million to fund eight priorities outlined under previous president Ruth Simmons, including brain science, the Humanities Initiative, public health, engineering, dorm renovations and financial aid. The intent is to raise as many funds as possible to address these issues before the launch of a capital campaign.

But if those priorities are not fully addressed in the next two years, they will likely be folded into the capital campaign, Paxson said. After Watson arrives, administrators will have to determine how much money is available and what exactly the University needs, she said.

“Who’s out there?” Paxson said. “How deep and broad is the pool of alumni and friends of the University who will support us?”

New presidents usually take anywhere from six months to a year and a half to announce a capital campaign, said Stephen Nelson, higher education expert and senior scholar in the Leadership Alliance at Brown. Simmons, who assumed office in 2001, launched the Campaign for Academic Enrichment the following year. That campaign, the largest in the University’s history, raised $1.6 billion by its conclusion in 2010.

The University should be able to build on that, said Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76, adding that Simmons left behind a base of alums both energized and optimistic about Brown’s potential.

“The alumni and donors feel that Brown can do things and want to participate (in that),” he said. “She basically instilled the deep sense among the Brown community that we can believe in ourselves.”

Though it is clear that areas like financial aid and engineering are important to Brown’s growth, how exactly to address those needs is something to be researched and discussed, Paxson said.

“I have no doubt that financial aid will be a component of the next campaign. The hard question is going to be, how far can we go with that, and where to prioritize it among all the other needs, and that’s something that’s going to come out of the planning,” Paxson said.

“Would I like to be able to say right now, ‘We will be need-blind for everybody within five years?’ I would love it if I could,” she added. “Will we be able to do that, given the financial realities of where we are? I don’t know, and we’ll see.”