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A push to raise $250 million for the 146-year-old University of Northern Iowa began quietly four years ago, starting with fundraising for a $14.9 million renovation of the campus’ Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.
With construction about to start on that project, UNI recently went public with its comprehensive fundraising campaign to better not only the Gallagher Bluedorn, but amenities, experiences and programming across campus.
“This ambitious and historic campaign will lay the foundation for the future of this institution,” UNI President Mark Nook said in a statement. “Through investments in our students, faculty, and staff, our academic programs and learning spaces, we are ensuring the promise and power of a UNI education not just for students today, but for the generations to come.”
To date, “Our Tomorrow: The Campaign for UNI” has raised about $189.7 million toward its $250 million goal, according to UNI spokesman Pete Moris. That’s more than 75 percent of the target, thanks to support from about 25,000 donors, with UNI hoping to reach 100 percent by its sesquicentennial in 2026.
“We’re grateful to our incredible alumni and friends who have stepped up to support this campaign,” Nook said. “And we’re looking forward to getting others involved.”
Among its most notable alumni is high-profile Panther Kurt Warner. He and his wife, Brenda, served as VIPs of UNI’s recent homecoming parade — nearly three decades after Warner played Panthers football, before eventually leading the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl and getting enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Projects UNI hopes to fund via its $250 million campaign include one central to Warner’s experience in Cedar Falls — renovation of the nearly 47-year-old UNI-Dome, home to Panthers football and other athletic events.
That $50 million project will absorb one-fifth of the campaign’s fundraising total. Other UNI “hallmarks” the campaign will help renew include the Campanile, needing a $2.2 million upgrade, and the Gallagher Bluedorn performing arts center, with its $14.9 million expansion and renovation.
Improving “iconic spaces” is one of four strategic pillars UNI has organized its “Our Tomorrow” campaign into, along with student access and success, engaged learning, and academic programs and faculty.
- To the student success mission — at the “heart of the campaign, with a goal of creating a path to opportunity for many more students” — UNI’s fundraising campaign to date has established more than 360 new scholarships, with plans to commit more than $70 million for scholarships by 2026.
- To the engaged learning piece, UNI’s campaign aims to support initiatives encouraging and enhancing professional and career readiness by providing “service learning and community engagement opportunities,” while also advancing diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and in the community.
- Direct support for faculty will help UNI recruit and retain teacher-scholars — striking at the heart of one of UNI’s preeminent missions, articulated in one of its original names: the Iowa State Teachers College.
Co-chairing the UNI fundraising campaign are former regent Katie Mulholland, a three-time UNI graduate, and David Takes, a 1981 UNI alumnus.
“There is a momentum at UNI, and the enormous support already for ‘Our Tomorrow’ from alumni and friends speaks volumes,” Mulholland said. “Those of us who’ve experienced this wonderful university know firsthand the value of UNI for the future of our state, and we’re stepping up to ensure a strong legacy for the decades to come.”
Takes said he’s “never had to sell anyone on the University of Northern Iowa.”
“Like so many who’ve graduated from UNI, this university made an enormous impact on my life, and I’m honored to play a role as we once again commit to preserving and expanding the quality of opportunities at UNI — tomorrow, the next day, and the next, for future generations of UNI students from all walks of life,” he said.
Of the nearly 25,000 unique donors to the campaign thus far, more than a third — 9,200-plus — are first-time supporters.
For more information on the UNI campaign, including its pillars, and details on how to give, visit: https://ourtomorrow.uni.edu/.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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