The U of M’s most ambitious fundraising drive will allow the University to attract
additional world-class faculty, foster innovative research and enhance learning experiences
with cutting-edge facilities.
In terms of the economic returns it will generate, the University of Memphis’ centennial
campaign is a no-brainer. For the thousands of students who will benefit intellectually,
it will mean unrivaled learning facilities and new scholarship opportunities.
The U of M has launched the most ambitious fundraising initiative in its 100-year
history — Empowering the Dream, a comprehensive campaign with a goal of $250 million by June 2013. The campaign
will add sparkling new learning facilities for three of the U of M’s highly regarded
programs: music, nursing, and communication sciences and disorders. It will foster
innovative research, allow for the hiring of leading scholars in all disciplines and
endow scholarships and fellowships.
About $12 million of the funds have gone toward the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
and its move downtown. A new indoor practice facility for athletics is also included.
“If you look at the economic indicators of what the U of M means to the community,
it’s been $1.5 to $2 billion per year,” says Charles Burkett, who, along with his
wife Judy, is chairing the campaign, which has already raised more than $188 million
of the quarter-of-a-billion dollar goal.
|Some of the funding for the Empowering the Dream campaign will go toward construction
of a new Music Center, which will house the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music and give
students unrivaled learning and performance facilities.
Burkett, a retired First Tennessee Bank president, has become an expert of sorts when
it comes to lauding the U of M’s accomplishments as well as championing its needs:
he is chair of the U of M’s Board of Visitors, an advisory board made up of the area’s
business and civic leaders.
“How many people in our community know that the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law often
has the highest pass rate on the bar exam of any university in the state?” he says.
“The statistics also are remarkable for the Loewenberg School of Nursing, in that
100 percent of those students recently passed the national exam required for nurses.”
Loewenberg has also been one of the most visible schools on campus, frequently sending
student-nurses into community health clinics in Third World countries as well as locally.
Dr. Lin Zhan, dean of the nursing school, says students and the Memphis metropolitan
area will both benefit as a result of the campaign.
“The investment in a new facility will help us to not turn away hundreds of qualified
applicants who want to be dreamers, thinkers and doers,” she says, “and it will have
a good return. Simply, an additional 100 nurses who are educated as a result of a
new building will generate at least $10 million annually for our economy.”
In response to a recent nursing shortage, Loewenberg doubled its enrollment over the
past five years to about 1,000 and added a graduate nursing program. Many are turned
away because of space limitations — a new building would house approximately 1,500.
Zhan and Dr. Maurice Mendel, dean of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders,
will share an interdisciplinary learning complex that will house offices, laboratories,
classrooms and clinics. Zhan’s students currently are scattered across campus because
of the lack of a comprehensive facility while Mendel’s are at three separate locations
throughout the city.
“In order to remain a top-ranked graduate program, we desperately need a facility
that will allow the program to grow and prosper,” says Mendel. “State-of-the-art research
facilities, additional classroom space equipped with the latest technology and clinic
space better equipped to provide hands-on training for our students will allow us
to prepare more students while continuing to meet the many speech and hearing needs
of the Mid-South community.”
The School’s audiology program has been ranked as high as sixth and speech-language
pathology as high as 12th in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
One of the University’s sparkling gems, the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, will
also benefit with a cleverly designed Music Center. The School is also in dire need
of a larger facility to meet a growing student population.
“The current music building was constructed in 1967 to accommodate 250 students and
18 faculty,” says School of Music director Randal Rushing. “It now serves 500 students
and more than 63 full- and part-time faculty. The new Music Center will serve some
650 students and 73 faculty.”
Rushing says the new Music Center will allow faculty to offer students quality music
education without the distractions of an inadequate and deteriorating facility.
“By adding multi-functional and technologically enhanced classrooms, rehearsal spaces
and performance halls, students will benefit from pursuing their degrees in an environment
in which the most advanced resources and facilities are available for their use.”
The Music Center will also serve as the new “front door” of the University off of
Highland Avenue. With 200,000 square feet, it will feature a main-stage theatre, master
classroom/recital hall, studio-theatre, practice facilities, state-of-the-art rehearsal
rooms, classrooms and recording studios. Initial designs have been developed for the
Endowed in 2000 by Rudi and Honey Scheidt, the School of Music has the distinction
of being Tennessee’s only doctoral degree-granting program in music.
The timing of the campaign is “ideal,” Burkett adds.
“It coincides with the University’s celebration of its centennial anniversary,” he
says. “When you look at what’s happening at the University – its steadily increasing
student body and the rising academic qualifications of its students, its successful
recruitment, retention, and support of outstanding faculty, and its revitalized and
beautified campus – you can’t help but want to be involved in the University’s future.”
Burkett stresses that this is a comprehensive campaign. Every gift, regardless of
its size and designation, is considered important.
“We want everybody to feel they are a part of this. It’s going to be a success if
everybody gives something.”
U of M President Shirley Raines says the campaign is essential to the U of M’s continued
“More than 130 individuals and couples are involved in this campaign through their
leadership,” she says. “Their endorsements and enthusiasm for this major metropolitan
university are encouraging to our almost 2,500 employees and 23,000 students. Community
leaders realize that when the University succeeds, the city of Memphis benefits, and
so do the state and the region.