History of the UA Foundation

The UA Foundation was established in 1974 through the impetus of Brian Brundin who was then serving as a Regent of the University of Alaska. The State Legislature at the time sought to have the University’s appropriation of state dollars reduced by the value of the gifts it received from private donors. Regent Brundin correctly saw that this would quickly reduce donors’ desires to make gifts to the institution if they saw that such gifts were merely replacing government funds. A successful attorney, Mr Brundin asked two of his law partners, John Hughes and Richard Gantz to join him as the original incorporators and directors of the Foundation.

Over the next several years the Foundation grew slowly as the University altered its policies and practices to ensure that all private gifts to support the University flowed directly to the new organization. A large financial boost was provided when the annual gifts from the University’s earliest and most successful fundraising drives in support of KUAC were received by the Foundation.

In 1976 the three member Board of Directors was expanded to include some of Alaska’s most prominent and successful citizens with the goal of incorporating these individuals in the Foundation’s efforts to attract more and larger gifts. As a result, in 1979, the Foundation realized just over $250,000 in gifts and bequests.

The first major fundraising project of the Foundation commenced in 1981 with the formation of a “Committee of Measurable Objectives” which later became the Alaska Research Development Project. Nearly $300,000 was eventually raised by the Directors for the effort that eventually resulted in the formation of the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation.

In 1982 the Foundation established a membership group called the College of Fellows as part of its structure. This group allowed the Foundation to enlist even more supporters to become involved in the University’s activities and in raising funds for its programs. Through the efforts of these committed individuals the annual gifts to the Foundation passed the $1million mark in 1983.

In order to manage properly the affairs of the expanding Foundation an Executive Committee was first formed in 1985 and two years later the Board of Directors was expanded in size to 15 members.

As the Foundation’s assets grew from increased donations during the 80’s it became apparent that a formal investment committee was needed to properly manage and invest the Foundation’s expanding asset base – especially its long term endowments. Thus, in 1987, Foundation President Paul Meyerhoff appointed the first Investment Committee of the Foundation and in that same year the first formal Foundation investment policy was adopted by the Directors. At that time the Foundation’s total assets had surpassed the $9 Million mark.

With the three universities that make up the University of Alaska gaining more students and more programs, separate development offices were established during the mid 80’s at UAA and UAF, and later at UAS. In order to align the Foundation with these three very distinct regional campuses the Foundation underwent a major reorganization in 1989 to mirror that of its beneficiary. The College of Fellows was divided into three branches, one for each of the three universities in the system. The Board of Directors was expanded to include representation from each of the branches. In that year gifts and bequests to the Foundation totaled just under $2 million.

Also in 1989 the Directors agreed to a request by the University’s Board of Regents to raise money for the construction of a new President’s Residence. The five year effort culminated in 1994 when the $1.3 Million residence was occupied by UA President Jerome Komisar.

The Foundation moved more forcefully into its advocacy and public relations role in 1995 when it made its first grant of funds for a public education campaign. In that same year the Foundation Board began its annual spring “fly-ins” to Juneau during which teams of Directors and members of the College of Fellows met with legislators to advocate for the University’s budget.

In 1997 the Foundation’s responsibilities grew markedly when it took over the management of the University’s $43 Million Land Grant Trust fund under a cooperative agreement with the Board of Regents. That same year donations and bequest received by the Foundation exceeded $5 Million.

Another significant organizational change at the Foundation occurred in 2000 when the Foundation received a $500,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation designed to catalyze the University and Foundation’s efforts to centralize their fundraising functions. Augmented by matching funds from the University and the Foundation, the $1.1 million, three-year project resulted in the combining of the University’s several donor databases into a single system accessible to all the campuses, the creation and staffing of a centralized Statewide Development office, and the provision of funds to the campus development offices to assist them in adapting to the new centralized system. At the close of 2001 the Foundation’s assets had passed the $100 Million milestone.

Finally, in 2005 the Foundation embarked on its most recent and profound organizational change. Following a report prepared by consultants from the Association of Governing Boards, the Board of Directors approved a new structure and bylaws that divested the Foundation of the College of Fellows, upgraded the position of Executive Director to Foundation President, established fees for gifts and the management of funds, reorganized and revitalized the Board of Directors, and increased the Foundation and University development staff by several new positions in the area of planned giving, data management, and prospect research. That same year the total gifts received by the Foundation exceeded $12 Million and its total assets under management surpassed $243 Million.

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