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Pitt fundraising campaign tops $2 billion

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg has a contemplative moment before the start of the Homecoming Address at PITT Friday, October 12, 2012. The university announced their most successful fundraising initiative, raising $2 billion dollars. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said on Friday that the university's capital campaign has reached more than $2 billion.

The money will be used to construct buildings, fund research and pay for scholarships, Nordenberg told alumni, faculty and students at Alumni Hall during his homecoming address.

“However you measure it, this is a milestone moment in the long and proud history of the University of Pittsburgh,” Nordenberg told the crowd, which responded with a standing ovation.

Pitt officials first announced the “Building Our Future Together” campaign in 2000 with a goal of raising $500 million. By 2007, the goal had jumped to $2 billion.

To date, the campaign has raised $2.047 billion. The money has allowed the Pitt community to perform research in fields ranging from energy to medicine, as well as pay for expansion at all five campuses.

Pitt Trustee and alumnus Thomas Usher, chairman of Marathon Petroleum Corp. and retired chairman of U.S. Steel, chaired the campaign through the first $1 billion. Usher and his wife, Sandra, endowed the Sandra and Thomas Usher Chair in Melanoma.

The current campaign co-chairs are Pitt Trustee Eva Tansky Blum, senior vice president and director of community affairs for PNC Bank and president of The PNC Foundation; and her brother, Pitt Trustee Burton Tansky, retired president and CEO of The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. Both alumni, their contributions to Pitt include a gift they made with their sister, Shirley Gordon, to name the Tansky Family Lounge in the William Pitt Union to honor their parents, Harry and Jeanette Tansky. The family also created the Tansky Family Fund to support Alzheimer's research.

“Pitt changed both our lives,” Eva Tansky said. “The opportunities it opened up, I never imagined possible.”

Campaign funds also led to the creation of the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration, a joint program of UPMC Eye Center and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine of the University of Pittsburgh. It's named for the man who pledged $3 million to support it.

Fox, who has central retinal vein occlusion in both eyes, remains active in the center leadership.

“They are there to deal with ocular maladies and ophthalmological diseases people universally suffer,” said Fox, a 1964 Pitt alumnus and director of Seabridge Gold Inc. in Canada. “The concentration of the Fox Center is translational medicine — getting it from the research bench to the patient.”

Of the more than 182,000 donors who have made gifts to the campaign, nearly 88,000 are alumni. Support from private organizations accounted for about 60 percent of the total, including $641 million from foundations, $192.6 million from corporations and $366 million from other organizations. More than 300 people made gifts and pledges of $1 million or more, including 17 who made commitments of between $10 million and $25 million and 11 whose giving exceeded $25 million.

Construction projects completed thanks to the campaign include the John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen Events Center, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the William R. Baierl Student Recreation Center, the James J. and Helene Barco Duratz Football Complex, the John J. Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and the Petersen Sports Complex.

The university also restored and renovated buildings and repaired the exterior of the Cathedral of Learning. One gift included the Allen L. Cook Spring Creek Preserve, consisting of 6,000 acres of fossil-rich land in Wyoming.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or

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