Light the World Reaches $1.5 Billion

Boston College

Boston College makes history with one of the most successful capital campaigns in American higher education this decade.

“Light the World” campaign co-chairs Charles I. Clough, Jr. ’64, Kathleen M. McGillycuddy NC ’71 and William J. Geary ’80 had ample reasons to be concerned about the October 2008 public launch of the largest capital campaign in Boston College history.

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and the Board of Trustees had already committed to a “stretch campaign” with an ambitious $1.5 billion goal, more than triple the $441 million total raised in the “Ever to Excel” campaign of 1997-2003.

And then, just 11 days before the campaign launch, the financial markets collapsed.

“It was a very difficult time for the financial sector, and many of the trustees were connected to it,” said Clough. “I remember that there were discussions about the economy and some comparisons to the 1930s, but our faith in the campaign never wavered.”

McGillycuddy concurs. “We were cognizant of the severity of the downturn, and we had many discussions about it, but there was no support for delaying the campaign. We were all so committed to it, and had great confidence that a market tumble would not deter us.”

And so, amidst the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression — one that would ultimately include a 7,000-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the doubling of the unemployment rate — Boston College chose to move forward.

That decision was rewarded last month when the University reached its $1.5 billion goal, completing one of the most successful capital campaigns in American higher education this decade.

And yet, despite the campaign’s successes, its co-chairs remain adamant that much more needs to be done.

“While we should be immensely proud, our work is never done,” said McGillycuddy. “We are not wealthy in comparison to peer institutions, so we must continue to focus on the future, including gifts through the end of this fiscal year. Providing financial support for the University is a lifetime commitment.”

“I was a kid from inner-city Boston who grew up in a housing project and whose life was transformed by attending Boston College,” said Geary. “That need still exists; it transcends any campaign. There is joy and jubilation around the conclusion of a campaign, but the needs do not go away, which is why we encourage all donors to continue their support, especially through May 31.”

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