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Aiming higher

08/27/15 - BOSTON, MA. - Diane Macgillivray portrait on August 28, 2015. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

This week, Northeastern announced it is taking the Empower campaign to new heights, raising its fundraising goal by 25 percent, to $1.25 billion. The university’s historic campaign seeks $625 million in philanthropy and $625 million in government and industry partnerships. We sat down with University Advancement’s Senior Vice President Diane MacGillivray to discuss Empower.

Why are we raising our goal?

Even as we have been carving out Northeastern’s next strategic plan, we have known that our needs exceed what we intended to raise through Empower. Raising the campaign goal now will enable us to fund more of the initiatives we deem vital to this university’s future. Increased resources will help faculty, who need to be able to master and teach subjects that are constantly emerging. They will buoy students, allowing them to add great value to their fields, and to blaze trails in professions that don’t now exist. More resources will also support researchers, who will need to find solutions to challenges that society hasn’t even realized yet.

These aspirations are going to require immense resources. Thanks to the tremendous support we’ve seen so far—from alumni to parents, from faculty, staff, and students to friends both old and new—we have experienced huge momentum. Raising the campaign goal will enable us to take fuller advantage of this momentum, so that even if we can’t fully fund every last one of our goals, we can stretch them that much further.

You said at the State of the University that every gift includes at least two stories: that of the donor, and that of the beneficiary. Is there a specific story that you’ve found particularly inspiring?

That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child! There are so many inspiring stories. A recent one that comes to mind is about Olga Vitek, a mathematician and scientist who was awarded the Sy and Laurie Sternberg Interdisciplinary Chair. It was an incredible moment when Sy met Olga. His pride was palpable. He truly understands the power of endowed chairs to attract and retain the best faculty at Northeastern.

And there are countless wonderful scholarship stories. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Toju Ometoruwa, a recipient of the Amin and Julie Khoury Scholarship in Entrepreneurship. Toju’s passion for music led him to launch Pickasound, an online forum that allows people from around the globe to collaborate and produce songs together. His work has drawn the interest of local student venture firms as well as our entrepreneurial groups on campus, making him part of the next generation of Northeastern’s entrepreneurs.

The Empower campaign has covered 10 cities. How would you characterize our global community’s response to the campaign, and its impact so far?

From San Francisco to Fort Myers, from Hong Kong to Dubai, we have covered the globe. To date, more than 86,000 individuals have contributed to this campaign from 88 countries. In short, the response has been astounding.

And the stories that come out of these events are terrific. I’ve seen alumni who haven’t been to campus since graduation just dazzled by our students and faculty. I’ve seen graduates from the 1950s having heartwarming—and sometimes surprise—reunions with old friends. I’ve seen prospective students making the decision to attend Northeastern on the spot. I’d say that’s real impact.

In your State of the University address, you also mentioned that more than half of faculty and staff have donated to Empower, while about 1,800 students made contributions to last year’s senior class gift. What does this mean to you, and what does it say about our community, to see this level of investment?

I have been deeply, deeply impressed by the strength of commitment from our faculty, staff, and students. You have all answered the call. The level of faculty and staff giving to Empower puts us in the top quartile of universities nationwide. And the senior class gift participation has been outstanding. In addition to their philanthropic giving, more than 100 students and 100 faculty have taken the opportunity to showcase the exciting research and innovation taking place at Northeastern during Empower events all over the map.

What this says to me is that our Northeastern community gets it: This campaign is about all of us and for all of us. It will determine the path of our future.

What have you learned about Northeastern from your involvement in the Empower campaign?

I’ve seen that the Northeastern community has a remarkable ability to always think about what’s next. That’s our towering strength. And that’s what we will need to succeed in the future as a nimble, global, dynamic institution of higher education, grounded in our signature experiential education programs.

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