MSU celebrates Empower campaign, the "margin of excellence that makes all the difference"

Oct 20, 2018

Michigan State University celebrated its ongoing successful capital campaign with a set of donor and public events October 19. Dubbed “Empower Extraordinary,” the campaign raised more than $79 million in just the past three months, adding significant momentum to the effort. To date, nearly 250,000 donors have made more than a million gifts, adding up to more than $1.7 billion in support for the campaign that was publicly launched in October 2014. Gifts received through Dec. 31, 2018 will still count toward the campaign’s final tally. 

Russ White: On Friday October 19, MSU celebrated its Empower Extraordinary Campaign. Marti Heil is MSU's Vice President for University Advancement. 

Marti Heil: Russ, we had such a terrific celebration. We were able to celebrate with over 700 donors who attended from all over the country to come and celebrate Michigan State University and the success of the Empower Extraordinary Campaign.

White: Empower Extraordinary, explain what that is. What was it? What does it continue to be? 

Heil: Well, for the last seven years, we have been campaigning with our alumni and friends and corporations and foundation to raise much needed money here at Michigan State University.

White: And what were some of the goals of the campaign?

Heil: Some of the goals, first of all, it was to raise 1.5 billion dollars for necessary student scholarships, faculty positions, research, and several new buildings. I'm really excited to say that we exceeded that $1.5 billion goal. Currently, we are at, and announced yesterday, $1.756 billion. What's really exciting is, of that money, while some of it certainly is pledged and some of it is in deferred giving, which are wills, and trusts, and estates, over one billion is cash coming in to be immediately used here at Michigan State.

White: And really, a focus on the people, right? The students, with a lot of scholarship money. The endowed faculty is just so impressive. That's what drives this place. 

Heil: That is what drives this place and will drive this place for many, many years in the future. We have exceeded a goal to create over 3,000 student scholarships by almost 500. Each of those are providing in excess of $5,000 per student. That's extraordinary. We also had a goal to create a hundred new endowed faculty positions. I am so excited. That's an extraordinary goal as well. We exceeded that, so our total is 104 brand new endowed faculty positions. I'm also pleased to say that 23 of those faculty members are already in place and doing extraordinary work.

White: Marti, why is it so important for a place like Michigan State University to have private fund raising?

Heil: We all know that public institutions have, over the years, seen a decrease in their state appropriations, and of course, more students require additional support and additional faculty to teach, and budgets are set. Private funding provides that margin of excellence and gives us over and above what the state can help support and what student fees can help support. In public institutions, the private fund raising just makes all the difference in the world.

White: And Marti, what is your message for all our donors who are helping with this excellence?

Heil: Well, first of all, just a tremendous thank you. We couldn't do this without them. It requires every alum and every friend of the institution, and all of the corporations and foundations that we're in partnership with. Just from us to them, thank you for what they have given of themselves, in their time, their talent, and their treasures.

White: And Marti, you're really just getting reacclimated. You are a Spartan. You've been in these fund raising positions before at MSU, but what attracted you back, and as you continue to settle in, what will you be looking forward to?

Heil: Well, first of all, what attracted me to come back, it is my alma mater, and I'll always be a Spartan. It's just such an incredible opportunity for me, who retired 18 months ago, truly retired, to be able to come back. If I can give a little bit to help at this time, in terms of my talent, I'm happy to do that. I think what I'm looking forward to the most, Russ, after spending 30 years here, and really growing up at Michigan State University, not only graduating, but then my career was here, it's reacquainting with so many staff, and so many faculty that I worked with, and knew, and really respected.

And then, it's been just unbelievable reconnecting with the donors. So many people who over the last nine years I've kind of lost touch with, it's just like I never left, so it's been really great being back. One of the other messages I think I would say is that, even though we had an appreciation event, and several events, we dedicated two new buildings, but we also want everybody to realize that, even though we celebrated donors, this campaign is going to run until December 31st. And so, all gifts will count between now and the end of December. So if you're thinking about being part of the campaign, we'd love to have you give.

White: That's Michigan State University Vice President for University Advancement, Marti Heil. For more, visit  MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.