During a period of economic recession and falling provincial funding for universities, the University of Calgary held its first national fundraising campaign, and what was then the most successful fundraising campaign in the history of Alberta. Launched during the university’s 25th anniversary celebrations in October 1991, the Building on the Vision
Campaign set a goal to raise $40 million to strengthen teaching, research and facilities on campus. The campaign concluded in October 1993, having exceeded its objective by $5.6 million. “The enormous success of the campaign, particularly in these tough economic times, is a reflection of the strong level of support we enjoy within our community and beyond,” said President Murray Fraser.
University of Calgary alumni pledged $3 million and another $2.2 million was given by the more than 80 percent of the 20,000 members of the student body who contributed to the campaign. Faculty, support staff and retired employees donated another $1.5 million. The strong commitment from the campus community, which came early in the campaign, was thought to have encouraged the corporate community, foundations, and thousands of individuals to participate in the nation-wide campaign. $33 million came from 85 pledges of $100,000 or more, and there were 10 gifts of $1 million or more. More than 8000 individuals contributed a total of $21.8 million.
Students were the primary beneficiaries of the campaign, with funds going to library acquisitions, equipment, computer labs, a new child care facility, laboratory equipment, new academic program areas and an increased number of endowed chairs and professorships. At the campaign’s closing celebrations, Student Union President, Naheed Nenshi, expressed his thanks on behalf of the student body. “Every time we participate in an event made possible by the campaign, or find out that a professor has taken advantage of the teaching development program, or use new library books or computer labs, it makes a very big difference to us”, he said.
In July 1996, the Building on the Vision arch was erected on campus to commemorate the pivotal campaign. A gift of campaign vice-chair Ann McCaig, the arch is inscribed with the university’s Scottish Gaelic motto Mo Shuile Togam Suas – I will lift up mine eyes – and carries plaques engraved with the names of individuals who were key to the university’s development. At the arch’s dedication ceremony McCaig joined campaign chair, then-Chancellor James Palmer, and other members of the campus community in unveiling one of the university’s most recognizable monuments.