Endowment support ensures growth of 'intellectual capital'

By Greg Brewis
Throughout PLU’s history, thousands of alumni and friends of the university have been remarkably generous in providing the financial resources that have helped the university succeed.

This kind of broad support made possible the construction of the first building on campus, Old Main (now Harstad Hall), and the latest, the Morken Center for Learning and Technology, as well as many of the buildings in between. Similar gifts for scholarships for students and support for academic programs and activities have enabled the university to excel in ways that it otherwise could not afford.

Provost Patricia O’Connell Killen believes that endowment gifts are particularly important in support of academics and mission, as they provide a steady stream of resources that the university can use to invest in what she calls its “intellectual capital.”

“Endowed gifts are one way that the university ensures that it can carry on its mission in the world,” Killen said. “Endowment gifts provide both a certain fiscal flexibility and long-term stability, giving the university the capacity to be nimble and adaptive as it positions itself for the future.

“Faculty are the intellectual capital of a university and just as capital investment is important to any organization, to be vigorous and powerfully effective we must invest in our faculty.”

Gifts to the endowment are never spent. Rather, a portion of the investment income from these gifts is used to support the university’s mission and educational programs.
The university’s endowment has grown significantly in recent years from $8 million in the early 1990s to more than $68.5 million today. Deferred gifts and pledges to the endowment now total nearly $100 million.

In keeping with the objectives specified in the university’s long-range plan “PLU 2010: The Next Level of Distinction” and under Killen’s leadership, the academic sector has set out six areas in which future endowment gifts are critical to advancing the quality and distinctiveness of the university’s academic program:

  • Endowments with a particular global emphasis in faculty development, curriculum development and expanding study-abroad opportunities;
  • Support for student-faculty research opportunities that will enhance the educational experience of students and faculty working together one-on-one and in small groups to delve deeply into critical issues across the curriculum;
  • Institutionalizing The Wild Hope Project, the core of PLU’s commitment to academic excellence, purposeful learning and care for other people, their communities and the earth;
  • Named faculty chairs and endowed professorships to bring public recognition to the university and its programs as well as salary support, travel, research stipends and programming funds for faculty members;
  • Faculty development funding to provide educational, scholarly, professional and artistic, and leadership development opportunities for faculty; and
  • Sponsorship for major symposia, annual lectures, seminars and workshops that are crucial to a flourishing academic culture and extend the explicitly academic resources of the university out into the community.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important these development opportunities for academics and mission are,” Killen said. “They make it possible for PLU to move into the future with it’s own kind of Wild Hope, profoundly rooted in its Lutheran tradition of higher education.”

Killen calls PLU a global university – on the Pacific Rim, in the Pacific Northwest, in the 21st century – that is positioned to make a difference in the world.

“Our faculty and students walk freely into the world, don’t blink at the problems and come up with creative solutions that nudge human existence in the direction of flourishing rather than foundering,” she said. “Ultimately that is the profound mission that our donors have supported and will continue to support.”

There are many ways to make an investment in the PLU endowment. Contributions can be made outright or through planned giving vehicles, such as a bequest provision, trust, gift annuity or gift of life insurance. To learn more about investment options and ensuring the legacy of PLU, please contact the Office of Development at 253-535-7177 or visit www.plu.edu and click on “Make a Gift.”

Photo top: In the past decade endowment-supported grants for student-faculty research and creative projects at PLU have grown from 10 to more than 50. Here Melissa Youngquist and Stephanie Agonillio study the tidal areas on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, near Port Angeles, Wash.