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‘Rising to Distinction’ fundraiser nears $20 million goal

Falcon News Service

September 24, 2015

The “Rising to Distinction” fundraising campaign at UW-River Falls is closing in its goal of raising $20 million in five years. As of June 30, more than $18 million had been donated or pledged, according to the University website.

In 2012, UWRF launched “Rising to Distinction,” the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. The campaign is aimed at “enabling UWRF to climb to new heights of excellence in financial aid, faculty support, student learning opportunities, and facilities”.

“Rising to Distinction” has six key areas of impact in which the $20 million will be divided: scholarships ($7.92 million); colleges, units and programs ($5.5 million); faculty support ($2.5 million); the Falcon Center ($2 million); Fund for UWRF ($1.58 million); and Fund for Distinction ($500,000).

When it came to deciding how much money would go where, Assistant Chancellor of University Advancement and President of the UWRF Foundation Chris Mueller said that there were specific commitments that the foundation had to consider, like the Falcon Center and Falcon Scholars, where officials knew the number needed right away.

“Then you start filling in the blanks of what you think you can raise in other areas,” Mueller said. “So there is a little art and a little science to it.”

With the campaign deadline set for June 30, 2016, Mueller said that he is surprised by how quickly the money has been raised.

According to Mueller, the university had a feasibility study done by a consultant in 2011, who determined that the university would be lucky to raise $10 million by December 2014. The university then launched a $10 million campaign set for two and a half years.

However, within seven months that campaign had already raised more than $7 million. That’s when the foundation board decided to launch a $20 million campaign.

“We still thought it was a stretch, but we felt like given the times that we needed to stretch a little bit,” said Mueller.

One donor, according to Mueller, who has stood out in this campaign is Dr. Bry Wyman, a physician from Madison and the son of Walker D. Wyman, a UWRF history professor for whom the Wyman Education Building is named. Because of his donation to the foundation, Dr. Wyman was the first living million dollar donor in UWRF history.

Another donation that stood out was from Arlin and Marilyn Albrecht, who donated two separate times to the Falcon Scholars. Mueller explained that Marilyn was the first recipient of a scholarship from the UWRF Foundation in the 1950s.

“Rising to Distinction” has also held fundraising events, including an annual scholarship benefit held in the spring semester, meant to raise money for UWRF scholarships and honor donors who have given to the university. Speakers for this event have included award-winning entrepreneur Daymond John in 2015 and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward in 2014.

When it comes to how the scholarship benefit has impacted the foundation, Mueller said that although there is money raised through the event, it is more about creating a better connection with alumni and donors that is unique.

“I could give you a number, and it would be too low,” Mueller said. “Because it wouldn’t count for all those anecdotal stories of the way it has enhanced.”

Looking at how quickly the money has been raised, Mueller explained that nobody involved with “Rising to Distinction” is worried about meeting the $20 million goal.

“So now we get to spend the next year really planning what will be our campaign celebration next fall,” said Mueller. “And that’s a really wonderful place to be, because we can thoughtfully think about the impact the campaign has had on campus and really illustrate that to people.”