Rising to DistinctionUniversity of Wisconsin-River Falls Reaches $20 Million Fundraising Milestone Six Months Early

January 19, 2016--University of Wisconsin-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen announced today that the university has met its $20 million campaign goal much sooner than anticipated.

The Rising to Distinction Campaign, which is the university's first comprehensive fundraising campaign, was launched in 2011 to help UW-River Falls pursue the goals of its new strategic plan. Private support provides increased funding for student scholarships, improved and enhanced learning opportunities, and new facilities. With a goal of reaching $20 million by June 30, 2016 – the campaign fundraising effort well exceeded expectations, reaching that milestone six months early.

"The success of the Rising to Distinction Campaign, made possible by the generous support of our alumni and friends through the UWRF Foundation, represents a milestone in the university's history," said Chancellor Van Galen. "The impact of the campaign will be great, providing support for our strategic goals and helping us to provide high-quality, affordable educational opportunities to current and future students. I am deeply grateful to those who helped make this moment possible."

"When we started this journey we weren't sure where or when it would end," explained Campaign Chair Bill Boehm, '70. "Surpassing the original goal is an accomplishment to be celebrated. Plus we've begun to build a base and developed a degree of confidence that private support can be an increasingly important part of the future for UWRF."

Ten Thousand Donors

To date 10,153 unique donors have paid and pledged $20.2 million to bring the university's vision to fruition. It is only through these generous gifts that UW-River Falls will be able to pursue the goals of its new strategic plan, Pathway to Distinction, which includes:

  • Attaining distinctive academic excellence
  • Promoting global education and engagement
  • Fostering innovation and partnerships

Perhaps most incredibly, more than 91 percent of pledges, which is well beyond the national average, have already been paid.

"Not only is reaching the goal a monumental accomplishment, but having so many pledges fulfilled has already had tremendous impact on the university," said Chris Mueller, UWRF assistant chancellor of University Advancement and president of the UWRF Foundation. "This is a clear sign of the importance of the university to those who support it."

Widespread Impact

From student scholarships to academic program and faculty support to infrastructure improvements throughout campus, the $20 million that has been committed supports very specific initiatives across the university.

A few of the many highlights of the initial campaign to date include:

  • Increasing privately funded scholarships from $588,000 in 2011-12 to $1,235,000 in 2015-16.
  • Creation of the Falcon Scholars program that competitively awards 80 four-year scholarships to entering freshmen and, through student matching funds, offers the Falcon Scholars additional funding for study abroad or undergraduate research.
  • Renovation of Smith Stadium at Ramer Field that was rededicated on Sept. 19, 2015.
  • Construction of the Falcon Center, a $63 million state-funded project supported by $2 million in private gifts, which will conclude in 2017.
  • Renovation of the Dairy Pilot Plant, where UWRF students make ice cream and cheese, expected in 2017.
  • Inauguration of the Walker D. and Helen Bryant Wyman Visiting Professorships in Art and History, supported by a gift from Dr. John Bryant Wyman, the university's first living million-dollar donor.
  • Annual Scholarship Benefit dinners to support the Falcon Scholars program which featured speakers Bart Starr, Bob Woodward, and Daymond John.

More to Accomplish
While pausing to celebrate and acknowledge this stellar accomplishment, university and campaign leaders also emphasized that much remains to be done before the official June 2016 close of the campaign, and beyond.

In the final six months of the Rising to Distinction Campaign, active fundraising will continue on a wide variety of priorities, with special attention given to increased funding for the Falcon Scholars program and completing fundraising for the Falcon Center project.

"Whenever a campaign goal is met, there is the tendency to feel that the work is accomplished," said Mueller. "In reality, while we have surpassed the original goal, we still have priorities and commitments that need to be met. The campaign has raised the bar on what we can accomplish through fundraising at UW-River Falls, and we must continue to achieve this level of funding for the university to be successful."

Generous Gifts
An influx of gifts at the end of 2015 enabled UWRF to cross the $20 million threshold six months before the June 30 campaign conclusion. One of those commitments is from the RCU Foundation for the RCU Foundation Community Room in the soon-to-be-completed Falcon Center.

"The RCU Foundation's purpose is to create a positive impact in the lives we touch and the communities we serve," said John Sackett, president of the RCU Foundation. "The Rising to Distinction Campaign offered, with its wide-spread impact on UW-River Falls and the community, an opportunity for the RCU Foundation to contribute to the strategic planning goals of the university and fulfill our purpose."

Other notable gifts include:

  • Commitments from Greg and Donnette Wheelock, Arlin and Marilyn Albrecht, and the estate of Wayne Peterson to create the Falcon Scholars Million Dollar Match.
  • Commitments from Associated Milk Producers Inc.; FOSS, North America, Inc.; and Kwik-Trip for the Dairy Pilot Plant renovation.
  • A gift from the Mary Ella Jerome Family Foundation to name the Frances Cohler Coffee Concert Series.
  • A commitment from Jeff and Kristi Cernohous to fund the feasibility study for new science facilities.
  • An IRA rollover contribution from Dr. John Butler for the J.E. Butler Upper Class Cellular and Molecular Biology Scholarship, the J.E. Butler Sophomore Cellular and Molecular Biology Scholarship, and the John E. Butler International Research Endowment.
  • An estate gift from Annette Blanchette for the Sally Margis University Staff Development Award and the Irene L. Blanchette Endowed Scholarship.

Campaign Celebration Planned
A campaign celebration event scheduled for Sept. 23 is already in the initial planning stages. All those who contribute to the Rising to Distinction Campaign will be invited to attend. The event will highlight the many ways that private philanthropy has had an impact on the UW-River Falls campus.

For more details about the campaign, visit

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