Without warning last week while he was being honored as the recipient of the 2013 Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership, Trustee Lewis Katz surprised the audience and announced that he is pledging $25 million to Temple, the largest single gift in university history.
Katz’s pledge came as a shock to the university community, as President Theobald said, “We had no idea. I have not spoken with anyone who knew he was going to do that.”
Multiple attempts to reach Katz for comment were unsuccessful. It’s unclear what Katz’s donation will be used for.
Though the announcement came as a surprise, it underscores a renewed commitment to fundraising at Temple, a trend started in the months before Theobald took office in January.
Sparked by the Temple Made campaign and a $100 million initiative for student scholarships last year, Temple raised $65.8 million, the highest total in university history.
This year, however, administrators are hoping to break that record and raise at least $73.5 million.
As of last week, the university has raised $21.1 million this fiscal year – not counting Katz’s pledge – which is $2.4 million more than this time last year, Tilghman Moyer, interim senior vice president for Institutional Advancement, said in an interview Monday.
Moyer cites momentum from last year’s record-setting fundraising year, as well as Temple’s admission into the American Athletic Conference and the president’s inauguration as factors that have contributed to fundraising success this year.
Though these factors played a role in driving fundraising, Moyer said initiatives that focus on small donations from a large group of people, like Owl Crowd, which is an online portal that allows people to donate to specific projects that are submitted by departments and registered organizations.
“It’s the idea of the whole crowd funding concept,” Moyer said. “It’s not individuals, it’s collective.”
Moyer said pledges from trustees like Katz give added impetus to fundraising and said their philanthropic priorities “cannot be understated.”
Last year’s fundraising record “was driven by a large increase in the amount of money given to scholarships by the trustees,” Theobald said in an interview Monday. “The trustees led that and people realize that holding down costs so that undergraduates don’t have to borrow money is a huge problem in this country. They have been very responsive when you ask them to do something about it.”
The added emphasis on fundraising comes at a time when university leaders are putting affordability at the top of their list of priorities entering 2014.
“If we’re going to be affordable then either the state’s going to have to give us a lot more money or we’re going to have to raise a lot more money,” Theobald said. “Well, of those two, the likelihood of the state giving us a lot more money is very small.”
As the university moves into the second half of the fiscal year, Moyer said the announcement of Temple’s master plan, which is under development through the Visualize Temple initiative and is likely to be unveiled next year, could spur a spike in fundraising.
“Buildings give the opportunity for fundraising,” Moyer said, adding that new construction allows people to see “physical” momentum on campus. “When you have an alum come back to campus and they see that physical growth, it gives them a sense of pride.”
The $65.8 million raised last year broke the previous record of $65.4 million, which was raised in fiscal year 2008 that coincided with the Access to Excellence campaign during former President Ann Weaver Hart’s tenure.
Sean Carlin can be reached at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.