UK launches $2.1 billion fundraising campaign to fund scholarships, research, Coliseum renovations

Memorial Hall building mug

Rick Childress

UK officials announced Friday that the university is launching a $2.1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign—the largest in the history of the state—in an effort to grow scholarship and research opportunities and continue to update campus facilities.

The campaign, branded as the “Kentucky Can: 21st Century Campaign,” was announced to hundreds of guests in the new Gatton Student Center.

“We were founded for the people of Kentucky,” said UK President Eli Capilouto in a press release announcing the campaign. “This place has been – and continues to be – home to pioneers and providers, bold dreamers and strategic thinkers, who make our vision and work possible. Now, we have the opportunity, with a sense of dogged determination and boundless compassion and generosity, to write the next chapter for this university and for those we serve in the Commonwealth and beyond.”

The $2.1 billion dollars that the university is hoping to raise through gifts is earmarked partially for 2,100 more UK LEADS scholarships and a number of other possible future scholarships, according to the press release.  

UK LEADS, short for UK Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success, is a grant program that distributes institutional funds based on student financial need, according to the program’s website. The LEADS program was developed in part to help raise the university’s retention rates and alleviate student debt.

UK also hopes to grow its current and future research developments, fund a $95 million research facility and grow the university’s endowment from $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion.

In terms of athletics, the campaign hopes to provide 350 more student-athlete scholarships and fund renovations that would modernize Memorial Coliseum. Details of those renovations were not released.

According to Mike Richey, the Vice President of UK Philanthropy, the university has already raised $1 billion of the fundraising goal as the campaign has been ongoing, silently, since 2013.

Richey said that campaigns of this sort typically have a silent and public phase. Friday’s announcement marks the beginning of this campaign’s public portion. He said that this campaign’s goal will likely be met in four to five years.

This is the second comprehensive campaign in UK history, Richey said the last one began in 1997, lasted until 2007 and raised $1.08 billion.

After the announcement, Richey said that UK volunteers and employees will begin to roll out fundraising campaigns across Kentucky and the country.

To raise the rest of the funds, UK will require at least 2,100 gifts of at least $25,000. Richey estimated that UK officials would have to make approximately 40,000 personal visits over the next few years to hit those goals.