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UCLA Raises $611 Million in 2020–21, Supporting Students and Advancing Critical Research

University exceeding its annual goal and drawing donors from all 50 states and 72 countries

By Staff Writer

UCLA raised more than $611 million in gifts and pledges in the fiscal year ending June 30, exceeding its annual goal and drawing donors from all 50 states and 72 countries.

“Generous donors at all levels have continued to partner with UCLA to effect meaningful change on campus, in the community and around the world,” said Chancellor Gene Block. “Despite a challenging year, our friends have once again demonstrated their extraordinary commitment to UCLA’s mission of education, research and service.”

In response to conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, many donors focused on students’ need to adapt to distance learning, access for students from underrepresented groups, and timely research on global issues.

For the 2020–21 fiscal year, UCLA received more than 75,000 gifts, nearly 95% of which were less than $10,000. Donors made 34,680 online gifts, and 24,353 alumni gave back to their alma mater. The campus also received 84 gifts of $1 million or more.

“From meeting immediate needs to seeding recovery and rejuvenation, UCLA’s diversity of donors and their passions and gifts are sustaining and advancing our invaluable work,” said Rhea Turteltaub, UCLA’s vice chancellor for external affairs. “Thanks to their generous support, students, faculty and the campus stand ready to help society reemerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.”

Support for students

Supporting scholarships, fellowships and student programs remained among UCLA’s key fundraising priorities, particularly as students adapted to remote learning while, in many cases, their families suffered pandemic-related financial hardships. UCLA admitted its most accomplished incoming class this year, and as the campus welcomes students from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds, philanthropy enables many of them to choose UCLA without taking on too much debt.

Last fiscal year, donors established funds to support undergraduate students from different regions — including Robin Luce-Fahey and Sean Fahey’s gift for Los Angeles students and Robert and Maxine Halem’s gift for students from the Gilroy and Salinas area — and in various units, including a gift from Ric Carlson for the UCLA College’s Division of Undergraduate Education. UCLA also celebrated the first cohort of Tisch Scholars, benefiting from a $10 million gift from Steve Tisch in 2019 to support middle-income students.

At the graduate level, UCLA School of Law received the largest contribution ever made by a tribe to a law school, $15 million from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, to fund scholarships for Native American and other students pursuing careers as tribal legal advocates. Gifts to the UCLA Anderson School of Management established and enhanced several fellowships. L.A. Care Health Plan added to its 2018 full medical school scholarship for students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who are planning to work in underserved communities. Those scholarships, along with Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship awards, add to the transformative legacy of support for medical students created by David Geffen through the David Geffen Medical Scholarships, which as of 2021 has reached a total of 363 recipients. And friends of the late Ron Baham, a UCLA alumnus, crowdfunded a UCLA Spark campaign to endow an existing comedy fellowship in his memory at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

In January, UCLA Athletics concluded its Bruin Support Program to maintain assistance for student-athletes during the pandemic. The initiative raised nearly $4.4 million through 890 individual gifts during 2020–21. Overall, donations to the Wooden Athletic Fund exceeded $11 million from more than 4,000 donors, benefiting nearly 700 student-athletes on UCLA’s 25 teams.

Donors also made significant gifts to student affairs programs. Jill and Timothy Harmon gave $1 million to create an endowment for the Bruin Guardian Scholars program, which supports hundreds of UCLA students who are or were in foster care. For students in the LGBTQ community, Pat and Michael Palazzolo established a scholarship and LGBTQ equity fund in memory of their son and brother, Matthew Palazzolo, a UCLA alumnus.

Spurring societal progress

Philanthropy also provided UCLA’s students and faculty with resources for working toward the public good, particularly in expanding equity, diversity and inclusion efforts following the racial justice uprisings of 2020. Campus leadership committed to several initiatives dedicated to Black life and racial equity, and donors are helping UCLA make headway in what will be an ongoing journey. Among their gifts are an anonymous gift for the Bunche Fellows Program and Bob and Jane Bessin’s gift for the new Black Bruin Resource Center.

Giving also advanced education and research related to social justice and ethnic studies. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the UCLA College $5 million to launch a social justice curriculum and gave another $3.65 million to the Institute of American Cultures to collect and archive materials related to policing and mass incarceration.

UCLA’s influence is also growing in global matters such as climate change. During the past fiscal year, a team of researchers, funded in part by a 2017 gift from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation, won the Carbon XPRIZE for upcycling carbon dioxide emissions into usable concrete. 

Donors made unique collaborations possible, too. The Shirley and Ralph Shapiro family established a special patient care fund at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, in collaboration with UCLA School of Dentistry and United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles. The initiative builds on UCLA’s history of serving disabled people and their families, and improves services in the community.

Health care during the pandemic and beyond

Donors continued to contribute for pandemic-related causes throughout 2020–21. Notably, rapid response research launched last year by Anne Rimoin of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Dr. Grace Aldrovandi at the Geffen School of Medicine garnered additional support, helping to advance their important work with frontline responders.

Beyond COVID-19 research, UCLA’s expertise in a variety of other health fields attracted generous support. A $29 million gift established the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Center for Precision Genomic Medicine; the Ginsburgs’ gift will support innovative research in precision health, an integrated patient clinic, faculty chairs, a fellowship and an annual symposium.

Direct care programs also received donations, including $5 million to endow the UCLA Eugene and Maxine Rosenfeld Medical Home Visit Program and $1 million from Mark and Laura Wittcoff to establish a nursing fellowship for the UCLA Arline and Henry Gluck Stroke Rescue Program. The pandemic highlighted both programs’ importance in the community, and the gifts will enable them to continue fulfilling their critical missions.

Care for spirit and soul

The arts also played an invaluable role in sustaining the community through the pandemic. By adapting programming to virtual platforms and adjusting logistics for major exhibitions and events, UCLA continued providing cultural resources to audiences in need of encouragement and enrichment.

The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music used gifts for its Music Partnership Program to continue K–12 outreach during the pandemic. Entirely donor-funded, the program received contributions from the Herb Alpert Foundation and others to support 10 UCLA students teaching piano, guitar, voice, audio production and other classes via Zoom. The program added a partnership with the UCLA Community School to a roster of relationships that already includes Boys & Girls Clubs in Hollywood and Santa Monica.

Philanthropy also is enabling UCLA to look forward to future artistic and cultural endeavors. During 2020–21, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, part of the School of the Arts and Architecture, received its largest foundation grant ever, $1.38 million from the Lilly Endowment for a three-year program that will explore multisensory experiences of religion in Los Angeles and around the world.

“Yet again, our donors have harnessed the power of philanthropy for good,” said Laura Lavado Parker, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor for development. “Their generosity has enabled UCLA to face its greatest challenges and fulfill its fullest promise. Their philanthropy advances the campus’s world-renowned academic core and health system; innovative institutes, centers and programs; championship athletics program; robust community engagement opportunities; and, at the heart of it all, our inspiring students.”

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