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Drake University launches $225M fundraising campaign

Multifaceted programs planned to benefit rural and underserved communities


With a vision for propelling the university into its “next great era,” Drake University officials on Thursday evening officially launched “The Ones: Drake’s Campaign for the Brave and the Bold,” a $225 million fundraising campaign.

The university has already secured $107 million in commitments toward the fundraising goal through the campaign’s quiet phase. With Thursday’s announcement, the public phase of the private university’s planned three-year fundraising campaign begins, with plans to meet or exceed the $225 million goal by October 2024.

“This is the most important comprehensive campaign in our history,” Drake President Marty Martin said. “This campaign reimagines our commitment to our students and society, and will better prepare our university to meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges with innovative solutions. Through the generosity of our donors, Drake will be empowered to transform lives and strengthen communities locally and around the world.”

The campaign co-chairs are Suzie Glazer Burt, a leading philanthropist and Drake trustee, and Mark Ernst, a Drake alumnus and trustee who is currently managing partner of Bellevue Capital, a private investment firm.  

The campaign follows the Bulldogs’ distinctlyDrake campaign that concluded in 2015, which raised $216 million for the university’s endowment over an eight-year period. Drake’s endowment balance currently stands at about $282 million, which represents 32% investment growth over the past year.

A private, liberal arts university in Des Moines, Drake enrolls nearly 3,000 undergraduate and more than 1,800 graduate students, offering degrees through seven colleges and schools. The university also offers a range of continuing education programs serving the community.

The Ones campaign’s case statement, presented in a 43-page glossy blue-covered brochure, outlines seven specific priorities that the campaign will fund. Four of the seven initiatives driven by the priorities will have new scholarship programs attached to them, and the campaign will fund one significant new capital addition at Drake: a new University Center that will be created by the renovation and expansion of the Olmsted Center.

The seven campaign initiatives are:

Leading with Purpose: Every Bulldog a Changemaker — dedicated to entrepreneurial programs and community engagement experiences.

Revitalizing Democracy: Center for Public Democracy — creating a hub for democratic discourse.

Educating for a Digital World: Digital Proficiency Platform — striving to be the premier institution in integrating the liberal arts with analytics and technology.

Enhancing Student Experience: University Center — a new University Center to attract and retain future students.

Strengthening the Heartland: Jay N. Darling Institute — the institute will allow Drake to partner with the people of the heartland to bolster the economic, social and cultural vibrancy of rural America.

Creating Access to Opportunity: University for All — redefining the practice and purpose of a university by empowering individuals of all ages and from all backgrounds to enhance their lives and the lives of others through education.

Transforming Every Day: Pursuit of Excellence — striving to ensure that students’ time at the university shapes, engages and inspires them for a lifetime.

“This case statement represents three years’ worth of work to define what it is we should be doing,” Martin said. “And that’s all resonating from what we call our inspiration statement, which is ‘Together, we transform lives and strengthen communities.’ OK, if that’s what we say about ourselves, then what should we be doing in that regard? That’s the challenge we put out to our community in the fall of 2018.”

From that process, a committee received 50 qualified submissions that proposed big, interdisciplinary, outward-facing initiatives that were aggregated, narrowed down and refined to shape the seven. The process also strived to ensure that no significant areas were being missed, Martin said.

“All this work enables us to do this campaign on a much quicker timeline, because we know exactly what it is we’re going to be asking our donors to support,” Martin said. “Most of them already know it because we’ve tested these ideas with them over the last 18 months, and we refined them based on that feedback.”

An example of those connections is the use of a portion of the $5 million gift announced two years ago to Drake by Paul Schickler, retired president of DuPont Pioneer, which is now Corteva. Schickler and his wife had directed that $2 million of their gift should be used to benefit rural America. As a result, those funds — part of the $107 million already committed — will go toward the Darling Institute.

New scholarship programs tied to four of the initiatives are part of an approach of driving mission-centered outcomes, Martin said. Those four initiatives that will have campaign-funded scholarships will include the Every Bulldog a Changemaker program, the Center for Public Democracy, the Digital Proficiency Platform, and the Jay N. Darling Center. Students receiving scholarships in each of these programs will receive $5,000 in addition to other financial aid they get. Each $100,000 endowment made by a donor can fund an annual $5,000 scholarship, he noted.  

As an example of how the scholarships will work, the Darling Institute will have a cohort of students who receive the scholarships who will participate in mission-driven programming consistent with the institute’s mission of revitalizing and sustaining rural America. The institute will also have a fund to support those efforts.

Rural communities will be asked to identify proposals for projects that would be matched up with the Darling program’s students, under the supervision of Drake faculty. For instance, a project for the institute might connect students in the data analytics and artificial intelligence programs to help rural businesses better engage in the digital economy.

It comes back to preparing students to be changemakers, Martin said.

“We’ve come to appreciate even more the role that we play as a high-quality institution of higher education, to make sure that what we’re doing has an overwhelmingly positive effect on other people’s lives,” he said. “This goes to the changemaker idea. We deliver that [educational experience] to them because we are preparing them to be the people the world needs most — well-educated, grounded in values of public service and the competency to render that public service. To be those innovators, whether they go into for-profit or not-for-profit enterprises.”

More information about the campaign can be found online at theones.drake.edu.

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