University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

A Milestone Weekend

President Sullivan at the Campaign Launch Gala
Photograph by Sally McCay


A Milestone Weekend

A tremendous sense of optimism, pride in our past, and anticipation of our future filled the University of Vermont campus over the first weekend in October. While the UVM Reunion and Homecoming Weekend is a perennial time for celebration, we reached a new pitch this year as the event was coupled with the public launch of Move Mountains: The Campaign for the University of Vermont

Thursday morning began an unprecedented run of fifteen new UVM gift announcements, a crescendo of giving that would continue across the next two days. Each gift, in its own individual way, spoke volumes about the loyalty and generosity of our donors. At the same time, taken together, they paint a picture of the myriad endeavors of the University of Vermont in 2015 as we build our future. Medical education, Fleming Museum collections, LGBTQA Center, Jewish Studies, civil engineering, and the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources are just a few of the areas of the university that will be greatly enhanced by these new gifts. And, in keeping with the core focus of our campaign, these gifts will all directly benefit the work of our students and faculty. 

On Friday afternoon many gathered in the Kalkin Building courtyard for a milestone moment, the announcement of the largest individual gift in the history of the university. Steven Grossman, a 1961 graduate, spoke to having some of the best years of his life at UVM, the lifelong impact of his education, his ethical commitment to philanthropy, and his excitement at the direction UVM’s School of Business Administration has taken under the leadership of Dean Sanjay Sharma. All combined to inspire a $20 million gift to the school, now named in his honor—The Grossman School of Business. 

Steven Grossman’s gift directly supports our aspiration to position UVM as one of the nation’s top public research universities: making UVM a talent magnet to attract the best faculty and students from across the land to our university. We are profoundly appreciative of the generosity of this support and what it will do for the University of Vermont.

Fresh from that announcement, my wife, Leslie, and I stepped into the Davis Center atrium to find the three-story staircase and floor filled with students, staff, faculty, and alumni. The UVM pep band stirred the excitement another notch as students, trustees, and alumni joined me at the podium to make the official announcement of a $500 million campaign goal. I thought alumnus John Hilton, chair of the UVM Foundation Board of Directors, put it very succinctly in context when he said that this campaign is “not about numbers but about excellence.” 

Indeed, while $500 million presents a compelling goal that we will meet, we must never mistake that goal for our true objective. With this campaign we are on the move to rise to the next level of accomplishment, excellence, stature, and consequence. 

The day was not done. On Friday evening, we brought together faculty, students, and 525 of the university’s most stalwart supporters to celebrate this auspicious moment and consider what we are and what we can be. At evening’s outset, we were amused and uplifted by a reading of a rap poem that poet/professor Major Jackson wrote in honor of the event. Never has a university been captured so well in verse. We heard student Flore Costume tell us of her personal journey from Haiti to New York City to UVM. We heard of the innovative research and teaching of faculty members Lizzie Pope, Josh Bongard, and Stuart Hart. We heard what a UVM education has meant in the life of Karen Nystrom Meyer, UVM alumna and a member of the Executive Campaign Council. 

The evening also provided the opportunity for direct conversation with the students and faculty who define us—from the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics to UVM Rescue, the Humanities Center to our top-flight ski team, the Clinical Simulation Lab to the new Wellness Environment residential community.   

I am pleased that so many of our alumni were able to join us for these moments of community dialogue and celebration. I hope that many more will join us along the four-year road ahead as we strive to reach our goal of $500 million by 2019. I am deeply grateful to the thousands of alumni, parents, and friends of the university who—with our current campaign gift total nearing $250 million—have already brought us nearly halfway home.            

—Tom Sullivan




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