The University of South Alabama (USA) announced Thursday that it has completed its Upward & Onward capital campaign with $160.9 million in donations that will go to school improvements and scholarships.
The University began the campaign’s quiet phase around 2013 and kicked it off publicly in 2015 with a stated goal of raising $150 million. The school exceeded that goal by $10.9 million, with a campaign that saw over 23,000 donations from a combination of individuals, businesses and foundations.
On Thursday, Yellowhammer News spoke with Margaret Sullivan, the University’s V.P. for Development and Alumni Relations, about what the successful campaign means for the school’s future.
“It says volumes about the USA family and the community of alumni and donors both locally and nationally that really believe in the mission here,” Sullivan remarked about the campaign’s success.
Upward & Onward earned gifts from all 50 states and nine foreign countries. Of the 23,130 entities who contributed to the campaign, 15,297 were first-time donors to the university.
“That is an incredible number, and I’m thrilled to death. That is 66% of our donors,” Sullivan noted.
“I think what it says is the University of South Alabama is relatively young compared to other large public institutions of higher education. We started in 1963; our medical school started in 1973. We have 87,000 alums, which sounds like a huge amount, but a lot of our peer universities have 300,000 to 400,000 alums,” she added.
Sullivan said her goal going forward is to keep those donors engaged because “the needs don’t stop when the campaign stops.”
Upward & Onward brought in $35 million for scholarship funding and renovations to academic and athletic buildings.
Over $11 million of the money raised will support graduate programs, and another $1.2 million has been dedicated to improving access to healthcare in medically underserved areas of Alabama.
Seven buildings that are part of USA Health, the school’s academic health system that includes a hospital, will be built or renovated because of Upward & Onward. More than $5.5 million was raised for the health system during the campaign.
Among the changes brought to campus by the campaign are the 15,00 square foot MacQueen Alumni Center and the new Hancock Whitney football stadium, which was aided by support from regional companies and the Mobile County Commission.
The campaign’s most generous gift came from longtime USA benefactor Abraham “Abe” Mitchell to the tune of $50 million. The Mitchell gift included $17.5 in matching funds for student scholarships.
Yellowhammer News asked Sullivan, who has been in her role since 2016, about the challenges Upward & Onward faced on its road to completion.
“Five years is a long time to keep momentum up, and we were able to do that thanks to the leadership at the university, a very strong volunteer committee, and alumni and friends of the university,” Sullivan replied.
She added that the coronavirus pandemic had negatively impacted the campaign for part of the last year, especially in the spring. Still, support rallied near the end, and the effort ending up receiving a $5 million gift the week before it concluded on September 30.
Sullivan said one thing she wanted to make donors aware of was the impact of their investment on the young attendees of USA.
“Their money has provided those critical resources to ensure student success. Student success is retention of students, graduation of students, support of our underrepresented students. We have a large population of underrepresented students and students with demonstrated financial need,” Sullivan explained.
“You’re making a difference in somebody’s life, that is generational, that changes generations,” she remarked about donors to the campaign.
University of South Alabama President Dr. Tony Waldrop concluded in a statement, “The campaign has elevated every aspect of the University by opening doors for students, advancing groundbreaking research and enhancing life-saving treatments for the people of the Gulf Coast region.”
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.