Fast Forward

Already transformed by the first successful billion-dollar college campaign in Florida’s history, the University of Miami has its sights on a new goal: raising $1.6 billion by 2016. With four years still to go, UM is more than halfway there.

In a five-story simulation hospital, nursing students in surgical scrubs tend to a lifelike pregnant robotic mannequin, monitoring her vital signs and counting contractions. On Virginia Key, scientists power up a one-of-a-kind wind- wave-storm surge simulator to better understand the dynamics of high-force hurricanes. In a new experiential music building, aspiring performers, composers, and engineers learn, create, and collaborate with state-of-the-art multimedia and interactive technology. And at the Student Activities Center, a new three-story landmark at the heart of campus, the kinetic buzz of student activities, socializing, and special events fills the air.

Such is a glimpse of what’s on the horizon at the University of Miami. 

Comprehensive, ambitious, and carefully crafted to advance the University’s strategic vision of its future, UM’s second major fundraising campaign within a decade is under way. Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami expects to raise a towering $1.6 billion by May 31, 2016 to transform this still-young institution yet again: new buildings and labs to prepare tomorrow’s medical and scientific masterminds, scholarships for those who otherwise might not be able to attend college, and a talented new group of determined researchers and scholars who don’t just study global problems, they find solutions to them.

World of Difference: “The financial support I received is one of the main reasons I was able to attend the University of Miami,” says School of Business Administration scholarship student Dhrushti Desai, who plans to apply the expertise she’s gaining to marketing creative enterprises in New York City. “Scholarships can make a world of difference for a bright student who wants to build a strong future—one scholarship, one chance, one lifetime.”
Asked why UM would launch the drive when the U.S. economy is still sagging and some philanthropists are keeping a tight hold on their wallets, UM President Donna E. Shalala replies, “We were ready to go, and it was time to go.”

Shalala, who has been at UM’s helm since 2001, notes that Momentum2 is more than halfway to its goal as it emerges from its silent phase, which began in 2008.

She adds that the timing of UM’s first billion-dollar fundraising effort—
Momentum: The Campaign for the University of Miami—was hardly ideal either. “We launched the first campaign right after 9/11, when everyone was canceling campaigns, and it did just fine,” she says.
In fact, the first Momentum campaign surpassed both its initial monetary goal and an augmented goal of $1.25 billion, reaching $1.4 billion by the end of 2007. The feat marked the first time a private university established in the 20th century had achieved a ten-digit fundraising goal.

“There’s no good time or bad time to launch a campaign,” concludes Shalala. “You just keep moving.”

Momentum2’s public launch earlier this year drew several hundred donors, trustees, and top UM administrators to the BankUnited Center on the University’s Coral Gables campus the evening of February 16. With Academy Awards-style flourish, Shalala opened an envelope and jubilantly revealed that the new campaign was at 56.6 percent of its goal, with commitments totaling $906 million. (As of press time, the figure was up to $934.7 million.)

That night, the campaign’s lead gift was announced too: $100 million from the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation to support the institute’s efforts to cure a disease that afflicts more than 25 million children and adults in this country alone (see story The Quest for the Cure).

“This speaks to the impact the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and the Miller School of Medicine have when it comes to improving and saving human lives,” says UM trustee Stuart Miller, J.D. ’82, chair of the Miller School’s Momentum2 campaign. “Momentum2 will enable us to make that difference.”

A decade ago it was Miller’s family whose $100 million pledge to the medical school propelled the first Momentum campaign. By the time it was over, UM was able to add 21 new centers and institutes, support 33 new and renovated facilities, endow 166 scholarships, and fund 35 new faculty chairs.

At the launch event, from left, the Wall of Recognition with more than 4,000 names from UM donor societies, performer Kenny Loggins, attendees at BankUnited Center, and President Donna E. Shalala, Honorary Alumna ’03.
Now, as UM returns to the campaign trail, it continues to ride high on a crest of achievement, including its rank of No. 38 (up nine slots from the previous year) in U.S.News and World Report’s “Best Colleges” issue, the dramatic rise of many of its graduate programs in prestigious rankings compiled by the National Research Council, and December’s recognition in Worth magazine as the nation’s most fiscally responsible nonprofit organization.

Leonard Abess, UM Board of Trustees chair, and his wife, Jayne, are co-chairing Momentum2. The couple also has a son attending UM. “Few top-rated universities continuously move up,” says Leonard Abess. “Some universities stall, but we keep getting better. The success of this campaign so far is due to very focused leadership and relentless work by a huge team of people who share a common vision about this institution we love.”

Articulating that vision in impressive detail is the University’s Accelerating Ambition plan, created to serve as a blueprint for the key steps needed to ascend to the next level of excellence and recognition. Its objectives include enhancing the undergraduate experience, building nationally prominent graduate programs, developing and sustaining a world-class research faculty, and providing infrastructure to support programmatic ambitions. “Our goals for Momentum2 are to raise funds as best as we can for those key priorities that we have identified,” says Thomas J. LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost, one of the strategic plan’s chief architects.

Several major gifts already in hand are going directly toward realizing those strategic goals. A 119,000-square-foot Student Activities Center is rising on campus with the help of a $20 million lead commitment from UM trustee Tracey and Bruce Berkowitz’s Fairholme Foundation, and a top-notch facility for Hurricane student-athletes is under construction thanks to commitments of almost $12.5 million, including a $5 million naming gift from Theodore G. (Ted) and Todd Schwartz.

Additional Momentum2 donations of $5 million or more have come from Jayne and Leonard Abess; UM trustee Adrienne Arsht; Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Charitable Trust; The Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation; Bonefish & Tarpon Trust; The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis; Patricia McBride Herbert, B.B.A. ’57, and Allan Herbert, B.B.A. ’55, M.B.A. ’58; Norton Herrick; Hussman Foundation; the Estate of Enid Claire Ives; Christine E. Lynn; Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation; The Pap Corps, Champions for Cancer Research; the Estate of Isabel Collier Read; The Starr Foundation; Elaine and Sydney Sussman and the Sussman family; and UM trustee Marta Weeks Wulf.

Juan Chattah, assistant professor of theory and composition at the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music, played a pivotal role in implementing the Frost School’s Experiential Music Curriculum, a novel, multidisciplinary approach to music education that is now integrated into every facet of the school. The Frost School was the first accredited school in the U.S. to significantly revise its undergraduate curriculum to make it more relevant for today’s world.
This inspiring groundswell of generosity supports initiatives that range from an 18,000-square-foot expansion of UM’s on-campus wellness facility to the groundbreaking research of the University’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute to an innovative and highly collaborative approach to harnessing the promise of emerging bionanotechnologies.

Campaign resources also will be directed toward UM’s network of community-based partnerships to enhance regional well-being in the areas of education, health care, and economic stability.

Sergio M. Gonzalez, senior vice president for university advancement and external affairs, calls the campaign a “sky’s the limit” effort. And he doesn’t take for granted what appears to be a bright forecast. “Each and every dollar raised is vital and irreplaceable,” says Gonzalez. “Every gift, no matter the amount, makes a difference and moves us closer to our goal.”

Already more than 94,000 donors have gotten behind Momentum2, many representing new sources of support.

“Our biggest lesson is that we have had to find a new generation of donors, parents, and alumni,” says President Shalala, underscoring what she and her administration have gleaned from their campaign efforts. “Our alumni group is now mature enough. We’re talking to people who graduated from here after World War II. We now have grandparents who attended UM sending their grandchildren here, and parents sending their children here.”

So far alumni donations to Momentum2 are at $138 million.

“Our longtime supporters are continuing to contribute enthusiastically,” explains Shalala. “But for this campaign, we now know we have to also identify new donors, and you can see the first ones coming through.”

She cites the example of Tracey and Bruce Berkowitz, who have had three children attend UM and belong to a committed cadre of volunteer vice chairs helping to lead the campaign. The others are UM trustee Eddie, B.S.E.E. ’72, M.D. ’75, M.S.B.E. ’01, and Joanne Dauer; UM trustee Paul and Swanee DiMare; UM trustee Joe, B.B.A. ’78, and Ana Echevarria; Dwayne Johnson, B.G.S. ’95; UM trustee ex-officio Dany Garcia, B.B.A. ’92; UM trustee Christine and Ted Schwartz; and UM trustee Roe and Penny Stamps. In addition to their leadership roles at UM, almost all of these vice chairs are alumni and/or parents of ’Canes.

“This is about more than raising money,” notes campaign co-chair Leonard Abess. “It is a vision for the future and for the prosperity of our community.”

   For more information about Momentum2, visit or call the Division of University Advancement at 305-284-4443. Social media users can get involved by using “#Give2theU”.

Earlier versions of this story appeared in UM faculty and staff publications.