Boston University on Saturday concluded a massive fund-raising push that brought in more than $1.85 billion the same way it launched the effort seven years earlier: The school threw a big party.
This time, however, the grandiose celebration at Agganis Arena featuring the Boston Pops unfolded against the backdrop of a campus transformed by contributions from about 176,000 donors who backed the university during the campaign.
“We raised a lot more money than we thought we would,” president Robert A. Brown said in a telephone interview . “It’s a real high-water mark and a wonderful occasion because it involves 176,000 donors.”
The campaign began in 2012 with an initial goal of raising $1 billion to pay for financial aid, better facilities, research, and faculty. BU reached the $1 billion milestone in 2016 , a year earlier than planned, and pressed ahead with the new goal of collecting $1.5 billion.
A video produced by BU highlights investments the school made using the donations, with a camera whizzing around the urban campus and featuring renovations to Myles Standish Hall and Fuller’s BU Pub, the opening of WBUR’s CitySpace, and the creation of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.
The campaign’s success expanded BU’s ability to provide financial aid to 1,500 to 1,800 students who enroll as undergraduates each year, Brown said. The estimated cost of tuition, room, and board for the current year is more than $72,000 .
Since fall 2017, the university has covered the difference between the cost of a BU education and what low-income undergraduate students receiving federal Pell Grants can contribute without private loans. Beginning next fall, the school plans to extend that assistance to all US undergraduate students who qualify for financial aid, Brown said.
The most generous contributor to the campaign was Rajen Kilachand , a Dubai businessman who earned his master’s degree at BU in 1974 and serves on the board of trustees. In 2017, he donated $15 million for the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering and $100 million to establish an endowment to pay for related research. He made additional gifts totaling $35 million, the school said.
Unlike its older neighbors Harvard University and MIT, BU, a former commuter school, didn’t have a history of successfully completing a major fund-raising effort.
“We were really able to energize our alumni body for the first time in our history to support the university,” Brown said. “We worked hard to engage them in a vision of what the university is and can be in the future in a way that we hadn’t done before.”
In 1988, then-BU president John Silber announced plans to raise $1 billion by 2001, but Brown said he hasn’t seen evidence that the effort gained traction. Silber was succeeded by Jon Westling, who spent six years in the job. After Westling resigned in 2002, the Globe reported that he was forced from the position because trustees believed he lacked the personal drive to lead a $1 billion capital campaign that was in its quiet phase.
Brown became president in 2005.
In the last several years, many private higher-education institutions in the Boston area have launched or completed major fund-raising campaigns.
In 2017, Tufts University began an effort to raise $1.5 billion, and MIT is working on a $6 billion fund-raising push.
Boston College’s eight-year campaign, concluded in 2016 , raised more than $1.6 billion . Northeastern University has said its “Empower” campaign raised $1.4 billion and Harvard concluded a five-year push in 2018, raising more than $9.6 billion.