Texas A&M University raised more than $740 million in donations during the past year, a record for the College Station flagship fueled in part by what one official described as euphoria over the success of its football team following the move to the Southeastern Conference.
The $740.6 million tally for the budget year ending Aug. 31 exceeded by more than $300 million the university’s previous record for a 12-month period. And though fundraising totals are still being tallied across the country, making broad comparisons difficult, A&M’s total dwarfed the more than $400 million that the University of Texas raised in the most recent period.
“This place is absolutely amazing,” said A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, a 1972 graduate of the College Station flagship, noting that about a third of the donations were earmarked for athletics and the rest for academics.
Ed Davis, president of the Texas A&M Foundation, attributed the surge in giving to three factors: more and more alumni reaching age 55 or so, when they tend to get more serious about donating; a thriving energy sector in Texas that has boosted many donors’ fortunes; and a higher profile for the university generally.
“We’re kind of a place seen as on the move,” Davis said.
He said part of that stems from euphoria surrounding A&M’s departure from the Big 12 Conference for the SEC, where the Aggies and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel, racked up an 11-2 season last year. More than $160 million was donated for the redevelopment of Kyle Field, Davis said.
A&M also received $31 million for a new engineering complex, $20 million for its physics institute and $205 million in estate gift commitments, the latter a record for the university.
Unlike some universities, A&M gets charitable contributions mainly through supporting foundations. Donations directly to the university totaled $97.5 million, mainly in the form of research grants from companies and charitable organizations such as the Ford Foundation, Davis said.
The A&M Foundation posted $350.9 million, the athletics-focused 12th Man Foundation $272.6 million, the Association of Former Students $13.7 million and the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation $5.9 million. Altogether, gifts totaled $740.6 million.
UT-Austin President Bill Powers announced last week that his school also broke its philanthropic record last year. The total is expected to be as much as $453 million, depending on whether “some accounting work” assigns a medical school gift of $50 million from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to that year or the next year, he said.
However, about $2.1 million might have to be deducted from the fundraising total for UT because the figure includes dues paid by members of the Texas Exes, an alumni association that is separate from the university. UT System Regent Alex Cranberg questioned the inclusion of dues, and guidelines established by a national standards-setting group apparently preclude them. Campus officials said they would subtract the dues if instructed to do so by UT System officials.
In any event, the Austin school’s fundraising has reached $2.3 billion in a capital campaign with a goal of $3 billion by the end of August 2014.
A&M is in the so-called quiet phase of a fund drive that began in January 2012, Davis said. A formal goal will probably be established late next year.
Asked whether A&M would also seek to raise $3 billion, Davis paused for a moment.
“Why don’t we just call it pi?” he said, referring to the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter, or about 3.14.