By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University officials reported Tuesday that the MSU Foundation raised $86.4 million during the 2012 fiscal year, breaking the previous year’s record of $80.3 million by more than $6 million.
John Rush, MSU vice president for development and alumni, said gifts to the MSU Foundation have been accelerating for the past few years despite an economic recession.
“We’ve gone from $51 (million) to $61 (million) to $65 (million) to $80 (million) to now $86 million in just five years,” Rush said. “The previous record (before 2011) was in 2006; we raised $78.6 million. Many alumni recognize MSU was the difference in their career. When the world’s economy is as tough as it is today, they want to give back and provide that for future generations.”
Rush said more than $34 million of this total came from “StatePride: An Initiative for Student and Faculty Support.” StatePride began when Mark Keenum was installed as MSU president in 2009, Rush said, and it has already raised $98 million of the $100 million goal it set for Dec. 31, 2012.
“(StatePride has) been very popular,” Rush said. “It’s focused on two areas: student scholarships and salary support for faculty. People understand we need to assist young men and women to get an education, and they understand that in order to do that, we need to have top faculty in the classroom.”
In the past four years since Keenum became president, the MSU Foundation has amassed more than $293 million in gifts. Keenum said in a press release he is pleased with the gifts, which he sees as demonstrating alumni loyalty and commitment to MSU’s mission.
“Alumni and friends remain confident in the direction of MSU as the state’s largest university as we strive for further enrollment growth and extend our reach both nationally and globally through teaching, research and service endeavors,” Keenum said in the release Tuesday. “Our alumni understand the value of their MSU degrees, and in increased numbers they are taking an active role in helping their alma mater succeed in producing graduates who will become future leaders across the nation.”
Rush said other specialized initiatives which contributed to the record-breaking year include “Today. Tomorrow. Forever,” a fundraiser for new athletics facilities such as the Leo Seal Jr. football complex. Universities across the country face budget crunches from declining state and federal support, and he said these donations help MSU weather the economic climate.
“Our fundraising is not going to replace state appropriations, but they are going to help ease that burden,” Rush said. “Private support combined with an outstanding research program allows us to attract the top flight faculty we have at MSU.”
Jack McCarty, MSU Foundation executive director of development, said the percentage of alumni who donate to MSU has steadily increased over the years, currently at 18 percent of an estimated 123,000 alumni. He said he was appreciative to all the alumni and friends who donate to MSU.
“Private giving has become more and more essential to the university over the last couple of years,” McCarty said. “We’ll be able to provide scholarships ... faculty endowments ... facilities and all kinds of other things that benefit the people here at MSU.”
Conversely, McCarty said, the growth of the gifts and the number of alumni who give is a testament to the work students, faculty and staff have done to make MSU a better place. When donors see what these people presently connected to MSU have accomplished, he said, it motivates them to give more.
“Our alumni and friends are very generous people, and there’s a lot of momentum at Mississippi State, a lot of good things happening, (and) a lot of our alumni and friends want to be a part of that,” McCarty said. “We’ve got the largest student body class we’ve ever had. We continue to have growth in enrollment. We continue to have a lot of success and excitement around athletics. We have a high-quality work force and staff that people feel the need to invest in and keep.”
Rush said the MSU Foundation is also seeing a record high in deferred gifts, which are funds people pledge to leave for MSU in their estate.
“Deferred gifts could be a trust, a gift, annuity or a bequest in someone’s estate,” Rush said. “A great example (of results from a deferred gift) you can look on campus and see is the Sanderson Center. Mr. Joe Frank Sanderson made a provision that when he passed away, funds were given to the university to make the construction of the Sanderson Center possible.”