President Henry S. Bienen

Dear Northwestern Alumni,

So, what next?

That’s a question I’ve heard with increasing frequency from alumni and others as Northwestern nears the end of Campaign Northwestern, the most successful fundraising effort in the University’s history. Thanks to the strong efforts of our alumni, trustees and other friends, the campaign, which concluded Aug. 31, raised more than $1.5 billion, exceeding both our original goal of $1 billion and our revised goal of $1.4 billion. More than 100,000 donors made gifts to Campaign Northwestern, and more than 1,400 people volunteered to help the campaign.

The campaign’s impact can be seen throughout the University:

• The physical landscape of the Evanston and Chicago campuses has been transformed with new and renovated academic, residential and recreational buildings. This has enabled us to improve our teaching and learning, provide on-campus housing for all undergraduates who want it and increase our research efforts.

• The number of faculty has increased, particularly in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the Feinberg School of Medicine, thanks to the extraordinary gifts received for those two schools. This means that we can offer more small classes for undergraduates, augment our graduate programs and increase the amount of medical research that we do.

• Undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships for students needing financial support have increased significantly. This allows Northwestern to continue to attract some of the best students in the country, regardless of their financial status.

• The undergraduate learning experience has been intensified. I think the best example of this occurred last spring at the first-ever Undergraduate Research Symposium. On a single day more than 200 students presented papers, showcased creative works or demonstrated the results of their individual undergraduate research projects. These projects, all done under the direction of faculty members, included such topics as the Chinese-Mexican community in Mexicali, Mexico; the transportation system used by Mercedes-Benz to ship its automobiles; black holes; public conflicts between law and art; and many others. It was truly inspiring to see the remarkable breadth and depth of the research done by our undergraduate students.

So, what next? Where do we go from here?

I strongly believe that one of the key changes in higher education in the coming years will be something that Northwestern already is doing well – crossing traditional school and departmental boundaries in both teaching and research to create an interdisciplinary approach to learning. A good example of this is our Institute for Nanotechnology, which draws on faculty from chemistry, materials science and engineering, several other departments, the Kellogg School of Management and the Feinberg School to conduct research at the molecular level. Another wonderful example is our Music Theatre Program, a cooperative effort of the Schools of Music and Communication, which teaches actors how to be better musicians and musicians how to be better actors. We have new interdisciplinary initiatives either planned or under way between the Kellogg School and the School of Law, between departments within Weinberg and with other major institutions in the Chicago area such as the Field Museum and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Now that our research buildings are coming on line, we also plan to expand our research efforts significantly. Through the efforts of faculty researchers in Feinberg, many of whom will have laboratories in the new Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, we are attacking the major medical problems of cancer, Alzheimer’s, ALS, infectious diseases, spinal cord injuries and others. This research is critically important not just to Northwestern but to society in general.

Despite Campaign Northwestern’s overall success, important goals still remain to be met. While the campaign was very successful in terms of the amount of dollars given by Northwestern alumni, we need to increase the percentage of alumni who give annually to the University, which remains below that of our peer institutions. I believe the alumni participation rate does not reflect the strong connection our alumni feel for Northwestern. In addition, regular unrestricted annual fund support is one of the foundations on which Northwestern’s financial security is based, so it is important for more Northwestern alumni to become engaged.

As Northwestern alumni, you received one of the best educations available in the country. We are proud of your success as students in your time here and hope that you will continue to succeed and, by doing so, will bring honor to this institution. I hasten to add – and I very much believe this – that there are many different ways to define success. We hope that you will be dedicated professionals in your chosen fields, contributing members of your communities and happy in your personal lives. In doing so, you will continue to make us proud that you are a member of the Northwestern community.

One of the good things about being here for eight years now is that I’ve been able to get to know many talented students who have now joined the ranks of alumni. I look forward to seeing you here on campus for Homecoming, reunions and other events and to meeting with you at alumni events around the country. I am honored to serve as president of this great institution and, with your assistance, confident of its success.

Best wishes.

Henry S. Bienen

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Last updated  Friday, 07-Dec-2007 12:21:41 CST
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