Funding Butler’s future

On the heels of multiple million-dollar donations, Butler University President Jim Danko is eager to continue fundraising.

He is still in the process of finalizing a strategic plan for the university, one that “energizes the academic side of Butler,” Danko said.

Gifts to the university have helped move the plan along.

One of the largest parts of the plan is to improve the sciences departments and construct a new science building.

The project would cost the university between $40 million and $50 million, and getting that much money is no easy feat.

In the fall, the university made a presentation to the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, asking for $10 million.

“We asked for $10 million in one go when usually universities ask for $1 million or so several times,” Danko said. “They were concerned, but our team, especially (Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Jay Howard) were able to sell the idea.”

The foundation has had a long-standing relationship with Butler and gave the university  $10 million.

Organizations are more eager to donate to the university these days, Danko said.

“People have a fondness for Butler,” Danko said. “They are liking what we’re doing, and they want to invest in our school.”

Having a clear vision for the university going into presentations has helped those donors understand what exactly they could be supporting.

Just last week, Danko announced another major donation to the university.

The Melvin Simon Family Enterprises Trust donated $1 million to help the university in another part of Danko’s vision for the school—incorporating technology in the classroom.

“I wanted to figure out a way to make sure that everyone is thinking progressively about how Butler has to change or adapt to the evolution that’s going on in higher education,” Danko said. “We had to at least have some common understanding about what’s going on out there, and we had to figure out how to get Butler involved.”

Danko encouraged faculty members to start thinking about how to keep Butler on the same paths as schools “we aspire to be.”

“What is Stanford doing? Danko asked. “How can we get there?”

There are about 20 online courses in some part or another of the creation process.

The Melvin Simon gift of $1 million will ensure that there are at least some resources to work with once ideas and plans are developed.

“You can’t get people down this path and have them excited about something and then say, ‘Never mind, there are no resources for this,’” Danko said.

The $1 million will go into a pool for use later on once ideas and concepts are concrete.

The move to the Big East helped pique the interests of companies and other potential donors.

“It certainly helped energize a few people,” Danko said. “Suddenly corporations that we had been trying to connect with were taking our appointments.”

The move sparked conversation and got people thinking about Butler’s place in the national spotlight.

“It showed people that we’re not complacent or sitting around,” Danko said. “We’re not going to sit there and watch the world go by.”

It was all part of the plan to connect the university with top-tier schools that Danko hopes Butler will compete with.

Costs are still uncertain at this point, but Danko feels confident the benefits will have Butler come out on top in the end.

“It was a no-brainer once we looked at the expected revenue and the projected ticket sales,” Danko said. “It was clearly a financially-positive move.”

As the Campaign for Hinkle Fieldhouse continues in hopes to earn $16 million by Dec. 31 for renovations and restorations, Danko said the energy around the campaign was renewed when Butler announced the university would switch conferences.

A recent donation of about $500,000 put the campaign one step closer to the goal. It now has raised nearly $14.5 million for the project.

“I feel confident that we’ll make it,” Danko said. “People want to see these renovations, and Hinkle is important to a lot of people.”

Danko hopes to continue raising money for the university to support a new master plan—a rendering of how the university could look in 20 years. Planners will be on campus this week to assess what the university could do with the space and resources it has.

“We have the chance to totally shape the future of Butler University,” Danko said. “The Butler of tomorrow hasn’t been determined yet.”

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