I WAS sitting in Driscoll Alumni Center with a special group of people. They were elected officials, community and business leaders, prominent University of Toledo alumni.
It was 2002 and we were discussing what leaders anywhere and everywhere regularly discuss: How do we transform an idea into tangible results?
The idea - the reason I was hired - was UT's decision to launch a fund-raising capital campaign to help increase university resources.
I had been to meetings like this with UT alumni across the country asking for input: "What should be the goal of this campaign?"
The message from Toledo's community leaders was clear. "Do not," they told me, "do not, do not use this campaign to raise the entire university one foot. Pick key areas and raise them a mile." Having led more than a dozen capital campaigns during my career, I was very encouraged by their conviction that UT invest strategically, narrowly, and deeply.
Some six years later, UT has reached its $100 million goal with several months yet to go in this campaign.
This is an extraordinary achievement for UT. It is more than double the amount raised in the mid-1990s by UT's pervious capital campaign.
It is the result of a great deal of hard work from employees and volunteers and, most importantly, it's a testament to the generosity of so many people who care deeply about the University of Toledo - those it serves and the values it represents.
But as I think back to that meeting of Toledo leaders, as I see people downtown, at the Docks or at the zoo, I do have one small concern. I worry from time to time that this success will be viewed as something great for UT rather than something great for the City of Toledo and the region. You do not need a direct link to the university to be positively benefited by it.
As UT President Lloyd Jacobs has said many times, the university and the City of Toledo are inextricably linked. UT will not be relocating during tough economic times. Its strength is the city's strength. UT and Toledo benefit from each other's successes and good fortune.
A prime example is the solar energy industry in Toledo. First Solar, that phenomenal Toledo success story, evolved from the brilliance of research conducted in the 1980s by Harold McMaster and others. Just months ago, Mr. McMaster's family donated $2 million to fund a professorship to bring one of the best solar energy scientists to the university.
While Mr. McMaster's gift will help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, George Isaac's is benefitting thousands of people who visit the George Isaac Minimally Invasive Surgery Center at UT Medical Center.
Combined with the brilliance of physician professors at UTMC, patients are able to leave feeling less pain, healing more quickly, and returning to their lives with minimal disruption.
One of the first strengths I recognized when I arrived in Toledo was the tremendous diversity of its population. Having already established a chair of Catholic Studies before my arrival, UT's capital campaign has enabled us to add an endowed chair in Islamic Studies. Also, generous donors created endowed chairs in Disability Studies and in Finance.
The impact of the philanthropy of Marvin and Judy Herb will benefit generations of students and teachers in the Judy Herb College of Education. The gift will provide an exceptional educational resource to schools throughout the region and country.
If you drive down Bancroft Street past the university, the large hole in the ground you see today is the future home of the Savage & Associates Complex for Business Learning and Engagement.
Funded in part by our capital campaign, the building not only reflects UT's and Dean Tom Gutteridge's commitment to engaging with the business community, it provides UT students - the future employees of Toledo's developing knowledge economy - with the knowledge and skills they need to successfully transition to the working world the minute - in fact, often before - they graduate.
UT's capital campaign helps to provide the foundation for many of the economic supports this region needs. It helps keep Toledo's residents healthier. It helps enrich the culture of our city already flourishing with it. Plus, if you are a basketball fan, once you enter Savage Arena this season, the generosity of Chuck and Jackie Sullivan and many other Rocket fans will be obvious.
UT is an idea that flows outward into this community as much as it flows inward toward professors, students, physicians, and patients.
To all who believed in it and gave to it, 100 million thanks.
Vern Snyder is vice president for institutional advancement at the University of Toledo.