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Ferris State University President David Eisler speaks at an event late last month as the school reached a $115 million fundraising target. Ferris State University President David Eisler speaks at an event late last month as the school reached a $115 million fundraising target. COURTESY PHOTO

Ferris marks ‘new era of philanthropy’ after reaching $115M fundraising goal

BY Sunday, November 07, 2021 03:23pm

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State University has exceeded its $115 million goal in the Now and Always comprehensive fundraising campaign seven months ahead of its official close.

University officials announced the milestone at an event late last month in Grand Rapids, after alumnus and Forum Health LLC CEO Phil Hagerman made a $5 million planned gift to push the campaign to $117.5 million. Hagerman and the Hagerman Foundation made a $5 million gift in 2015 that would help launch the campaign two years later.

Ferris President David Eisler said the milestone marked a “new era of philanthropy” at the university. The six-year comprehensive campaign drew contributions from more than 22,000 donors, and the funding will support ongoing endowed scholarships, facility upgrades and forming new partnerships throughout the West Michigan region.

Ferris first announced the campaign in 2017 with a goal to reach $80 million by late June 2019. The target was expanded after the school hit its initial goal a year early.

“We’ve never had this type of donor support for our university,” Eisler told MiBiz. “We’ve never done a comprehensive campaign, and we haven’t had any gifts the size of this campaign.”

Through an $18 million matching fund for endowed scholarships, the campaign will create hundreds of scholarship opportunities for students, Eisler said.

The campaign also supported renovations at the university’s Hagerman Pharmacy building, including a 140-seat active learning classroom, care clinic and 40-person interactive lab. The campaign also funded facility upgrades for the school’s welding program.

“It builds the capacity of our university,” Eisler said of the campaign. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is offering cutting-edge degrees. What this does is it gives us the ability to be cutting edge and offer fields that students will be interested in.”

While the comprehensive campaign is over, Ferris will continue to raise funds for a series of other projects, including $25 million to further expand its pharmacy program, $18.5 million for the Jim Crow Museum, Archive and Education Center and nearly $7.4 million for the Center for Virtual Learning that will house cybersecurity and esports programming.

“When I started at Ferris in 2003, the Ferris Foundation endowment was $18 million. At the end of September, our endowment at the university was $116 million,” said Eisler, who plans to retire in June 2022. “Think about the difference that kind of support can provide for the university.”

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