A day of celebrations in honor of an achievement seven years in the making concluded Friday night in the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
The finale event of the Florida Tomorrow campaign recognized the record 865,000 gifts that contributed to raising more than $1.7 billion — $201 million more than the goal that was set at the 2005 launch of the campaign, according to a UF press release.
Of the 4,000 donors who were invited to Friday’s event, about 700 attended the festivities, themed “Because of you.” Attendees were served drinks from an open bar and thanked in a 50-minute ceremony that concluded with a UF marching band performance and confetti.
“The event was terrific. Much more than expected,” said Al Warrington, campaign donor and UF trustee. “We almost stayed home because of the rain, but this was well worth it.”
UF President Bernie Machen addressed the crowd throughout the event. He welcomed a family whose son and daughter both suffer from multiple sclerosis but were able to walk again after receiving treatment at Shands at UF.
Soon after, it was announced that an anonymous $10 million donation had been made and that the donors requested the scholarship program be renamed the Bernie and Chris Machen Opportunity Scholars Program.
“I knew this was coming,” Machen said.
The donation will fund 250 new Florida Opportunity Scholarships.
Machen said that the campaign also helped fund the construction of a new medical education building.
“We are so proud because of what this means we can do,” Machen said.
The campaign has increased UF’s endowment from $836 million to $1.3 billion, which has allowed for the creation of 100 new endowed faculty positions, according to a press release from UF.
This is the third fundraising campaign UF has completed. Warrington said he believes it’s UF’s most successful yet.
After the confetti had settled and the pom-poms hit the floor, Machen raised his glass to the crowd.
“I toast to all of you because of you,” he said.