Boosted by generous donations from two alumni with storied connections to the University, UNC Charlotte launched a $200 million capital campaign on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.
University leaders described the lead pledge from Board of Trustees member and former chair Karen Popp (’80) and business executive Demond Martin (’97) as the cornerstone for the fundraising drive “EXPONENTIAL: The Campaign for UNC Charlotte.”
The largest capital campaign in UNC Charlotte’s history has significant implications for the institution’s future. Its goal is to raise $200 million that will fund new facilities and renovate existing structures, scholarship endowments, program support and annual giving. University alumnus Gene Johnson (’73) is the campaign chair; Tim Belk and Leon and Sandra Levine are honorary campaign co-chairs.
The campaign’s theme “EXPONENTIAL” asserts the accelerating force that UNC Charlotte has on the lives of its students, on its educational and economic partners, and on the region and beyond.
The theme also conveys the University’s remarkable trajectory of growth and innovation, especially during the last decade, and its strategic vision for sustained strategic progress and impact.
“As we embark on EXPONENTIAL: The Campaign for UNC Charlotte, I must remind you how far we’ve come,” said Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “Over recent decades, we’ve rapidly expanded enrollments, faculty and programs.
“While substantial efforts in applied research and entrepreneurial partnerships have helped drive economic and community development, we have also remained true to Bonnie Cone’s vision — that UNC Charlotte will be a place of access and opportunity for every deserving student,” he said.
Johnson, campaign chair, said the lead gift sends a message to alumni and other supporters.
“We are at a transformative juncture in the life of this University,” he said. “One important milestone was when we achieved doctorate status and became a major research university. Now, we are moving more into shifting the financial burden away from students. This campaign will help us do that.”
The “exponential announcement” was a highlight of a weeklong Founders Celebration to commemorate UNC Charlotte’s 70 years of creating opportunity. The University is one of several institutions founded in metropolitan areas of the United States immediately after World War II in response to rising educational demands generated by the war and its technology. To serve returning veterans, North Carolina opened 14 evening college centers in communities across the state. The Charlotte Center — now UNC Charlotte — opened Sept. 23, 1946.
“Now UNC Charlotte is a leading urban research university with national and global scope,” Dubois said. “Our needs have changed as much as our campus. We have ambitious goals, but we’ve accomplished great things before. To continue direct and meaningful impact, we need past and future donors to participate. An investment in knowledge certainly pays the best interest.
“This campaign undoubtedly will bring exponential returns, serving the interests of students, faculty and staff at UNC Charlotte as well as many industries and residents of the region,” he said. “We appreciate your continued trust and generous support.”
The donation was announced at the University’s Student Union, which is being named the Karen A. Popp and Demond T. Martin Student Union. Completed in 2009, the $65 million facility has become the epicenter of the campus, hosting more than 300 student organizations.
Johnson, the first alumnus to serve as chair of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees, said there is an important change in the makeup of the University, which is indicated in the direction of the capital campaign.
“For the first time, we will have significant numbers of alumni participating in a major capital campaign,” he said. “This says a lot about what we are as a University and how we are growing.”
“It’s incredible to think this University is now 70 years old,” Johnson said. “And it’s a key year in our life as an institution. That’s why the theme of the campaign is so important. We will be experiencing exponential growth from here on out. This campaign will also have an exponential impact on the region and on the lives of our students.”