Philanthropy is the art of making the seemingly impossible possible. By advancing the University of Miami’s enormous potential, donors help to shape a future full of promise and boundless possibilities. Now — for the second time in less than seven years — the University of Miami has achieved an institutional milestone by raising $1 billion in private support thanks to more than 100,000 generous individuals and organizations.
Reaching the $1 billion threshold puts Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami at more than 60 percent of its goal to raise $1.6 billion by 2016.
The first Momentum, launched in 2003, surpassed its original billion-dollar goal by raising a total of $1.4 billion one full year ahead of schedule in 2007. The campaign’s unprecedented success catapulted the University into the top tier of national research universities. Strategically, Momentum2 is a continuum of the first campaign, and collectively both campaigns will represent an extraordinary $3 billion investment in educational, research, and healthcare breakthroughs in a little over a decade.
It’s hard to believe that the University of Miami almost didn’t happen.
On Dec. 30, 1925, a group of business and community leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs launched an ambitious $5 million fundraising campaign (equivalent of $65 million in today’s dollars) to build a great Pan American University worthy of the city Greater Miami would one day become.
The privately raised dollars would match Coral Gables founder George Merrick’s $5 million pledge, which was to be funded by future property sales in his planned development on the western fringes of Dade County.
For Merrick and others, a university was seen as an important source of cultural maturity and community stability, providing a year-round permanence to South Florida’s seasonal population.
Armed with a catchy slogan — “You need the U and the U needs you” — teams of solicitors fanned out over the community. Local papers published names of donors and amounts of gifts. Pledges poured in, and the opening day was set for Oct. 15, 1926.
But as many Miamians know, the worst was yet to come — the overheated Florida real-estate boom was rapidly becoming a bust, Miami received a direct hit by a Category 4 hurricane less than a month before opening day, and the looming Great Depression was just around the corner. These setbacks literally and figuratively blew those promised gifts out of the water, and George Merrick’s pledge was never matched.
But on Oct. 15, the seemingly impossible took place: The University of Miami opened as planned. And although several decades of financial challenges followed, the University of Miami never looked back as it fulfilled its vital mission and great promise with the support of the community.
Eighty-six years later, the vision remains focused on delivering dynamic and irreplaceable educational, cultural and social resources that have shaped South Florida in a myriad of profound ways. Today both the University and the region have become increasingly global in their reach and impact.
One thing is certain, throughout the years, during times of uncertainty and prosperity, the U has never stood alone — not in 1926 when the bottom fell out of a young but proud city, and not now as we continue to face new challenges and opportunities with the same indomitable spirit that makes our community resilient, innovative, and one-of-a-kind.
That catchy slogan, “You need the U and the U needs you,” was indeed prophetic, and captures perfectly the amazing synergy and continued accomplishments of Momentum2.
Leonard Abess chairs the University of Miami board of trustees.