Special Report But for Ohio State Campaign
Expressing our immense gratitude
‘Without our alumni, none of what we do is possible.’ — President Michael V. Drake
What does the successful campaign mean to Ohio State and to your 2020 Vision plan for the university?
It’s been very rewarding for us to see how many people in the broader community understand, appreciate and value what we’re doing and are willing to indicate that by supporting us. What it means to the university is the difference between an A and A+. It takes things that we’re doing really, really well and allows us to be in the running to be the best in the world in a variety of areas.
It also directly supports the university’s 2020 Vision of increasing access, affordability and excellence through scholarships and other programs that assist our students. Part of our accessibility goal is to open more pathways for outstanding students from parts of our society who are not represented as fully on campus as they should be and as we wish. Many of the gifts support that specifically.
And many of the projects people have invested in — the quality of our classrooms and structures such as the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building, the new James Cancer Hospital, the Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute — support our excellence.
More than three-quarters of a million people contributed to this campaign. What does that tell you about how connected alumni and friends feel to Ohio State?
We’re really excited that more than 750,000 people have been part of this campaign, and we’re very grateful to alumni who stay connected. It’s a positive feedback loop: A Gallup poll demonstrated last year that alumni who stay engaged tend to have lives that work very successfully. And they are able to support us in ways that make us even more successful. That then helps us create more engaged, successful alumni.
I find in talking with our alumni that the university means as much to them today as it did when they were here in school. That’s perfect. That’s what we want to see. Alumni and their support help us continue to be a better and stronger university.
Faculty and their research interests are major beneficiaries of the campaign. Why is that so important for the university, particularly for our students?
Our faculty are really at the center of the university, and the quality of our faculty continues to increase. We’re attracting people from all around the world who are eager to come and join talented faculty already here. The facilities and support we can provide help us accommodate those new faculty when they arrive as well as our current faculty. Together, they, in turn, recruit and attract the strongest graduate students. The programs that the faculty and graduate students build are the backbone of what makes Ohio State an outstanding experience for our undergraduate students, and we are attracting those students in record numbers.
So all of these are positive feedback loops: We support innovative faculty. They bring in innovative students. We have more innovative, more impactful programs.
When it comes to research, several important things come together. One, great ideas. Two, the ability to test those ideas. And three, the ability to share that information broadly. The great ideas come from our faculty and students. The ability to do the research and test those ideas happens in our laboratories. And then, through our participation in conferences and publishing and our great partnerships with business, industry and throughout the community, we share that information broadly. All of that is helped by philanthropy.
Can you talk about changes to our landscape that the campaign has made possible?
Sure. The world is changing and increasingly competitive, and facilities are a big part of that. So we have smarter and more efficient classrooms than we did in the past. We have space that is used by multiple colleges in a more effective way. We need to continually modernize our facilities to meet the challenges of the modern world and the expectations of our students, who are better prepared than ever before. Our hospitals are a great example. A hospital that was built 50 or 100 years ago has a hard time even incorporating the equipment that we need to do modern procedures. For instance, the Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute will have rooms and facilities that are very different from what would have been built 10 or 15 years ago — helping to provide rehabilitative sports medicine at the cutting edge of what science allows. These new facilities are a part of our evolution forward.
Why is private support such an important factor in higher education these days?
We aspire to be one of the very best universities in the world. We want this to be the place of the best new ideas, a nationally competitive flagship university. We want this to be the most supportive and nurturing environment for young people to develop. We want this to be the best place for faculty to come to further their research and teaching interests and to discover answers that help us to be a significant contributor to society.
There are others who are doing the same thing, and we’re in a world where the best ideas win. We have to be able to help the people who have those ideas bring them to fruition if we’re going to reach our potential to touch more lives around the world. When faculty look for places for their careers, they look all around the world and say, “Where can I really be successful in advancing my particular career of discovery?” — and they think of Ohio State.
Students, when they’re looking for the very best place to build the foundation for their lives and their futures, look at universities all across the country, and in many cases, around the world — and they look to Ohio State.
So we need to do our best to be that place. That requires support from the state, which is important. Support from our contracts and grants and the products that we produce are important. Support from our ancillary services and university leaders, those are important — and so is support from our donor community.
In our university environment, everyone relies on support from those sectors, and without full support from all of them, we have a difficult time competing at the top level. Gratefully, we have incredible support, including from our alumni and friends across Buckeye Nation, and we are obviously competing at the very top level. You can feel it and see it.
What edge does having engaged alumni provide?
Buckeye Nation is a family, and families that work together and support each other thrive together. We have more than 540,000 members of this family, and we thrive best when we all work in tandem. I can really feel the connection and gratitude our alumni have for Ohio State. Those individuals and families around the world mean so much to us.
The fact that we have such an incredible group of engaged alumni really gives us a competitive advantage. The better we are, the better we can serve, and our alumni are a critical part of that.
While we are excited to exceed our goal for the But for Ohio State Campaign, we’re really gratified at the incredible number of people who gave — from the smallest amount to the largest. We’re grateful for every one of those gifts. Every one is a vote of confidence, and we take that very, very seriously. Without our alumni, none of what we do is possible. We want to make them proud.