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Exceeding Expectations

by Joe Barker


To call Saint Louis University’s Accelerating Excellence Campaign a success would be an understatement.

Accelerating Excellence: The Campaign for Saint Louis University launched its public phase in November 2018 and was the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in SLU’s history. The campaign set out to raise $500 million by the summer of 2022.

Pestello, Manion, Sinquefield and Chaifetz pose during a celebratory gala

Dr. Fred P. Pestello, Sheila Manion, Rex A. Sinquefield and Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz pose at an event celebrating the successful conclusion of the Accelerating Excellence campaign.

“This is a historic achievement for Saint Louis University,” said SLU President Dr. Fred P. Pestello. “The Accelerating Excellence campaign has built momentum for our mission-driven work and created new possibilities for groundbreaking initiatives in academics, medicine, research, athletics and service. The generosity of our donors will fuel an exciting, transformative future for SLU.”

Accelerating Excellence was intended to propel SLU to further national prominence as a Jesuit research university through investment in five strategic priorities: scholarships, academic excellence, business education, health sciences and athletics. The campaign was designed to impact all schools and colleges across the University.

“The success of this campaign will provide support for many academic, research and student-focused areas,” Provost Dr. Michael Lewis said. “I am deeply grateful for our donors’ commitment to scholarships and other support for students, and to enhancing faculty work and advancing research across all colleges and schools. There will be a significant positive impact on our entire community. The generous gifts from our alumni and donors show how much they care about SLU and the future of the institution.”

Achieving excellence benefits everyone, and that’s just what this campaign set out to do. It’s rewarding to see how many people got behind SLU’s goals and are helping make those goals a reality."

Rex A. Sinquefield, Accelerating Excellence campaign co-chair

The campaign was able to exceed its target even with the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz (A&S ’75) said he had faith the campaign would meet its goal because of its strong start — by the summer of 2020 the campaign had raised more than $400 million, including significant donations from Chaifetz and his fellow campaign co-chair, Rex A. Sinquefield (CSB ’67), both of whom are also SLU trustees.

“At the start of the campaign, I said that I wanted to improve Saint Louis University’s standing in the world, and I think this campaign has set SLU on that path,” Sinquefield said. “Achieving excellence benefits everyone, and that’s just what this campaign set out to do. It’s rewarding to see how many people got behind SLU’s goals and are helping make those goals a reality.”

The campaign had a number of major contributors. As co-chair, Chaifetz said part of his job was to encourage other parties to support the campaign. As a proud SLU alum, he said it wasn’t a hard task.

Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz speaks during a gala standing in front of a projection reading Celebrating Excellence, Saint Louis University
Chaifetz speaks during the Celebrating Excellence Gala.

“I’m a big believer in the school,” he said. “I live and breathe it. I think it’s a tremendous university that is not as recognized as it should be in a lot of areas. I encourage students to go; I talk to parents and encourage them to send their kids. It’s pretty easy to be bullish on this place.”

Pestello said the campaign couldn’t have reached its goal without contributions from everyone in the SLU community including alumni, faculty and staff.

“I want to thank everyone who helped make this campaign a success,” he said. “This achievement will make SLU a better university. With the resources this campaign generated, we will continue to recruit and retain exceptional faculty, staff and students. We will advance our students’ accomplishments at SLU, and our alumni’s success in their chosen careers. We will amplify our potential to serve and to produce scholarship that, in the Jesuit tradition, makes the world the way it ought to be.”

Notable Developments

The campaign had several high-profile donations that led to some substantial developments.

As part of the campaign, SLU saw the launch of the Saint Louis University Research Institute, a focal point for growing SLU’s research capabilities and increasing research output. The institute was created through a historic gift from Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield.

Two schools saw their name change during the campaign. The naming of the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business was made in honor of gifts from Dr. Richard and Jill Chaifetz.

The nursing school got a new name, the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing, in recognition of philanthropic support from University trustee Trudy Busch Valentine (VSN ’80).

Dr. Fred P. Pestello speaks to an audience during the launch of the new geospatial insitute in front of sign reading Taylor Geospatial Institute
Pestello announces the launch of the Taylor Geospatial Institute.

Funds raised during the campaign also led to the creation of a $10 million endowment for humanities education.

The Taylor Geospatial Institute, a collaboration of eight research institutions focused on innovation in geospatial science and technology, supported by a legacy investment from Andrew C. Taylor, was established during Accelerating Excellence, as well. 

Two new buildings also were made possible through campaign contributions. The Jesuit Center, a new residential facility and apostolic center on campus that supports SLU’s community of Jesuit priests, was finished this fall. Still under construction is the O’Loughlin Family Champions Center, a 25,000-square-foot facility that will provide comprehensive interdisciplinary services to SLU’s student-athletes and coaching staff. 

By the Numbers

The $604 million campaign was made possible by 190,402 gifts. The gifts led to four record-breaking fundraising years.

A total of 98 donors made a campaign commitment of $1 million or more. That number includes bequest intentions, pledges and cash gifts. There were 3,077 faculty and staff donors who contributed $14,706,353.

As a result of Accelerating Excellence, 416 new scholarships and awards were created. Of those, 281 were endowed.

A total of 28 of the new scholarships have diversity, equity and inclusion criteria, and 290 are need-based.

The campaign led to 36 newly endowed academic positions: 10 professorships, seven chairs, two deanships, seven lectureships and 10 fellowships. There also were 54 new funds created by donors that didn’t fit into any of the categories but offer general support to SLU.

Including scholarships, there were 535 new funds created overall.

We asked our community to reach higher with us to strengthen SLU for decades to come, and our donors stepped up to support the University like never before.

Sheila Manion, vice president for development

Accelerating Excellence led to the development of 19 new centers/institutes. Some existed before the campaign but were named by a donor during the fundraising effort.

“The goal of this campaign was a bold one,” said Vice President for Development Sheila Manion. “We asked our community to reach higher with us to strengthen SLU for decades to come, and our donors stepped up to support the University like never before. We are grateful for their enthusiastic participation and excited for the remarkable future their generosity enables. Any breakthroughs made possible by research funded by this campaign, any scholarships given to outstanding students who go forth to serve others, not only elevate SLU, they elevate the community. Every donor to the campaign shares in those successes.”

Looking Forward

The Accelerating Excellence campaign may be over, but the fundraising doesn’t stop. Chaifetz coined the Accelerating Excellence name and said it was intentional — it was meant to convey growth and not a finish line.

“We didn’t say achieving excellence or anything final,” he said. “We’re accelerating. It’s a boost to getting to where we want to go. The journey is always there.”

Chaifetz wants to see more contributions to the University from his fellow alumni.

“I’m very proud of Saint Louis University,” he said. “I’m proud to be an alum. We should all be proud of our students’ achievements. The best way to continue to promulgate that is to give money to areas that are important to you, so the University can continue to prosper. I would encourage all alums to do that. Without money, we can’t do all the things necessary to achieve greatness. Accelerating Excellence is just the beginning. We want to be better than excellent, we want to be perfect — you can’t get there, but you can try to get as close to perfect as you can.”

About Universitas

Universitas, the award-winning alumni magazine of Saint Louis University, is distributed to SLU alumni, parents and benefactors around the world. The magazine includes campus news, feature stories, alumni profiles and class notes, and has a circulation of 132,265.