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KU launches historic Ever Onward campaign

The endeavor aims to raise $2.5 billion to transform the University, address global challenges.

by Jennifer Jackson Sanner
Chancellor Doug Girod led a toast to the monumental campaign and its goal of raising $2.5 billion “to make our world better together.”

On a glorious fall evening, nearly 700 Jayhawks gathered Oct. 19 to launch the University’s largest, most comprehensive campaign in its history: Ever Onward, which seeks to raise $2.5 billion to transform KU, The University of Kansas Health System and Kansas Athletics and help solve some of the world’s most daunting challenges.

In a fitting testament to the power of philanthropy, KU Endowment hosted the celebration in the Jayhawk Welcome Center and renovated Adams Alumni Center, the newest of many KU structures—more than 60% of all buildings—funded by donors’ private gifts.

Like most memorable Jayhawk occasions, the evening emphasized camaraderie and school spirit. Guests visited displays touting the work of numerous KU entities included in the campaign, and at 7 p.m. all eyes turned to video screens throughout the building—especially the 34-foot behemoth in the lobby—to view the soul-stirring anthem video, which combined powerful words; vivid images of people, places and memories; and rousing renditions of a revered melody to reveal the campaign theme. Following the three-minute clarion call, a second video featured campaign leaders and their heartfelt messages.

To further outline the massive scope of Ever Onward, KU Endowment on Oct. 20 unveiled, a dynamic website that features the videos, details the campaign’s goals, and reports impressive progress: Since 2018, during the “quiet phase,” donors already have contributed $1.4 billion in gifts and pledges.

The website will continue to highlight campaign news through 2028, when, as Chancellor Doug Girod declared, “We intend to celebrate having raised $2.5 billion to save lives, to change lives, to improve lives, and to make our world better together. We invite you to march ever onward with us.”

The theme, of course, echoes the alma mater, but more important, it signifies the collective energy and optimism fueled by recent successes, including:

As campaign co-chair Howard Cohen described, “The momentum of our university has never been greater. University leadership are united in their vision. This is our time.”

Cohen, b’79, leads the historic venture with his wife, Debra, assoc.; David, b’73, and Dee Ehling Dillon, d’72; and Greg and Deanna Graves. The steering committee includes 16 diverse alumni leaders. “We are so excited about this campaign, and it gives us a chance to pay forward what KU did for us,” Cohen continued. “This is our chance to be part of that positive change, to be architects of a brighter future and to leave a legacy for generations to come.”

Dan Martin, Endowment president, urged fellow alumni to consider KU’s impact in their own lives. “The influence is undeniable,” said Martin, l’93, g’93, EdD’98. “I see it through my degrees that both prepared me and propelled me on my life’s career path, as well as through the leading clinical trials and world-class care provided to my father, who had Alzheimer’s, and my sister, who had cancer.”

The continuing quest to conquer dreaded diseases is among the driving forces of Ever Onward, said Bob Page, Health System CEO, who vowed that KU will become a leader in cellular therapy—the future of cancer treatment—and the destination for the most advanced research and treatment in brain health.

Girod, who began his KU career in 1994 as a head-and-neck surgeon and led the Medical Center as executive vice chancellor before becoming chancellor in 2017, invoked the spirit of early Kansans as he rallied the faithful: “Together, we forge new ideas, cures, and prepare young adults for meaningful lives. We build character and discipline. We take responsibility, and we inspire action, just as Kansans have done in the very beginning.”

Tammy Mauck Peterman, n’81, g’97, president of the Health System’s Kansas City division, succinctly captured the essence of Ever Onward in true Kansas style:

“We are always proud, but never satisfied. We still have more work to do.”

Ever Onward’s priorities align with KU’s Jayhawks Rising strategic plan: Student Access & Success, Healthy & Vibrant Communities, and Research & Discovery. Leaders have identified five overarching goals; for descriptions of all goals for academic units and other entities, visit

The next-generation KU Cancer Center
Having achieved NCI comprehensive designation in 2022, the Cancer Center will next build a new headquarters on the Kansas City campus to unite clinical and research programs scattered throughout the metro area. The new building will provide an ideal setting for patients and their families as well as the scientists and clinicians who join forces to provide the most advanced clinical trials and treatment.

The Gateway District
Renovations of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium will anchor a new campus entrance and multi-use complex at 11th and Mississippi streets. The development will begin with a conference center on the north end of the stadium, and future additions on the east side could include retail, entertainment and other commerce. The district will attract year-round activity and drive new revenue to fund academic and student-success programs as well as economic development for Lawrence and the entire state.

Student access and success
Scholarships funded by private donors provide life-changing opportunities for students. Each year more than 8,100 KU students benefit from scholarships, and additional funds are available to help students cope with emergencies so they can remain in school and complete their degrees.

Research recruitment
As one of 38 public research universities in the prestigious Association of American Universities, KU must continue to attract and retain the most talented researchers, whose discoveries improve lives throughout Kansas and far beyond. KU’s Innovation Park and other initiatives provide environments where researchers can thrive.

Research collaboration
Although external grants fund numerous projects, researchers also rely on the University’s vital administrative and financial support for infrastructure and operations. These funds are especially important to advance collaborations that unite scholars from multiple disciplines to tackle the most complex challenges.

Jennifer Jackson Sanner, j’81, is editor of Kansas Alumni magazine.

Photos by Steve Puppe

Issue 4, 2023


Campaign, KU Endowment, Research, Students
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