Puget Sound Raises $131.6 Million in its Most Ambitious Campaign Ever

July 9, 2015

 President Ron Thomas thanks alumni, parents, and friends of Puget Sound
for exceeding a $125 million goal for financial aid and other key priorities


TACOMA, Wash.
– University of Puget Sound has concluded its One [of a Kind] campaign with $131.6 million in gifts from more than 28,000 alumni, parents, faculty and staff, and friends of the college who stepped up to generously support the liberal arts educational mission in which they deeply believe.

Despite being launched during America’s biggest economic downturn in decades, the campaign represents the university’s first nine-figure fundraising effort and is instrumental in providing a sound financial platform from which the college can continue to play a leadership role in national liberal arts education. The campaign closed on June 30, 2015, exceeding its $125 million goal and opening a new chapter in the 127-year history of Puget Sound.  

“It is remarkable how transformative this campaign has been for Puget Sound, and what a difference it will make in the lives of students today and in the future,” said Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas. “Everyone who contributed to this campaign has helped to realize the objectives of a 10-year strategic plan that supported key priorities to strengthen our leadership role as a national liberal arts college, from student financial aid, to exceptional facilities for living and learning, to innovative academic programs. Our donors also helped to create a culture of engagement and giving that will sustain many more generations and allow Puget Sound to build on a pioneering legacy that extends back to our founding in 1888.”

Participation in the campaign was unprecedented, due in large part to the creation of a network of alumni and parents who continue to fuel the college’s progress. In 2007 the Alumni Council, made up of alumni volunteers, was created with 37 members. Today council chair Leslie Skinner Brown ’92 leads a membership of more than 1,300 alumni involved in eight operational committees that assist with interviewing prospective students, mentoring current students, career networking, fundraising, and more.

Their efforts are complemented by a Parents Council of more than 200 active volunteers, representing student families from across the country, who have made significant contributions of time, energy, and financial support throughout the campaign. Both groups will continue to play a key role in the work of the college going forward.

The campaign was co-chaired by two local leaders and longtime supporters of Puget Sound: board of trustees chair Rick Brooks ’82, and trustee and former board chair Bill Weyerhaeuser.

“The success of this campaign and the positive impact it is making on the academic program and campus community has gone far beyond what we might have imagined possible just over a decade ago when President Thomas and the trustees worked with students, faculty, and staff to develop the strategic vision that has now been realized,” said Rick Brooks. “Puget Sound’s mission is built on the belief that learning is lifelong, extending well beyond the four years of college, and it is especially exciting to see the increase in participation of our alumni in the life of the college.”

Bill Weyerhaeuser added, “My association with Puget Sound, as a trustee and as a member of the Tacoma community, extends over four decades. This campaign is by far the most ambitious effort in that time. It benefits not only our very talented students, faculty, staff, and alumni, but the people of this region who employ our graduates, partner in civic scholarship projects, and participate in the intellectual and cultural opportunities that the college provides. From our hearts, we thank all who participated in this campaign for Puget Sound.”

Key priorities that the campaign funded include:

  • Financial aid. More than $40 million was raised for endowment that supports student financial aid. Puget Sound created 85 new scholarships and augmented 141 additional scholarship funds, including the new Lillis and Matelich scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance for exceptionally talented and promising students; and the Neukom Family Foundation scholarship, which was substantially increased to support local students from groups underrepresented in higher education. As part of its commitment to improve access to college, Puget Sound also announced a new partnership with the Posse Foundation and created the Tacoma Public Schools Commitment, which meets the full demonstrated financial need of students admitted from Tacoma Public Schools. More than 90 percent of Puget Sound students receive some form of financial aid.
  • Academic programs. Innovative new programs, faculty appointments, and teaching support in areas including Southeast Asian studies, neuroscience, biophysics, bioethics, digital humanities, Latino/Latina Studies, environmental policy and decision making, and more.
  • Academic and residential facilities. Supporting Puget Sound’s mission as a residential liberal arts college with a 24/7 living and learning environment are several new facilities, including the William T. and Gail T. Weyerhaeuser Center for Health Sciences, which includes occupational and physical therapy clinics that serve the community; Commencement Walk, a landscape feature that connects the campus from north to south, integrating academic, residential, and co-curricular programs; and the Athletics and Aquatics Center, scheduled for completion by fall 2016. A new living and learning center for 135 students also was added during the campaign.
  • Campus life. Ongoing support for student engagement programs, faculty development, new technology, library resources, student research and cocurricular activities, campus operations, and signature civic scholarship commitments, including the Race and Pedagogy Initiative and the Sound Policy Institute.

Throughout the campaign, Puget Sound continued to grow its reputation nationally, regionally, and locally. The college was selected as one of the nation’s 40 Colleges That Change Lives; the number of faculty members named Washington State Professor of the Year rose to seven, more than any other college in the state; an unprecedented number of national fellowships were awarded to graduating students; and, among many student highlights, Lillis Scholar Billy Rathje ’15 was named Puget Sound’s third Rhodes Scholar, while globally-focused students kept Puget Sound in the national list of top small colleges producing Peace Corps volunteers.

Defining Moments, the 10-year 2006 strategic plan that has now come to fruition, proved a prescient choice of name. Puget Sound has come through one of the most volatile periods in higher education by keeping focused on the key tenets of that plan: to enhance and distinguish a Puget Sound liberal arts education; to build an inspiring academic and residential environment for learning; to deepen relationships with all members of the many communities it represents and serves; and to strengthen its financial position in order to continue building on the ideals of a liberal arts education.

This is still a “defining moment” for Puget Sound. With its leadership role secured nationally—and as one of only two national liberal arts colleges in Washington state and the only one in Western Washington—the college will continue to address the most pressing challenges affecting higher education from a position of strength, especially those related to access to and the affordability of a liberal arts education. The college’s mission to educate students broadly across the disciplines, preparing students to meet the highest tests of democratic citizenship, is especially relevant in developing future leaders able to confront the political, social, cultural, environmental, and technological challenges of our time.

For the next chapter there is already a motto in place to inspire the Puget Sound community to continue to pilot the college’s pioneering journey. Engraved in the college’s century-old official seal, embossed in Greek letters above an image of Mount Rainier, it reads: Pros Ta Akra, or “To the Heights.”   

Press photos of the Puget Sound campus and campus leaders can be downloaded frompugetsound.edu/pressphotos.

Photos on page: Top right: Commencement Walk sweeps through the center of campus; From top of the page: President Ronald R. Thomas; Students work in a biology laboratory; the William T. and Gail T. Weyerhaeuser Center for Health Sciences; Students learn Javanese dancing in Indonesia during a 2014 Asian Field Schools summer trip.

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