Just outside USC's central administration building, a new wall honors a handful of very special donors, those whose gifts to the private university have totaled at least $100 million apiece over time. Among them are film director George Lucas, Los Angeles philanthropist Wallis Annenberg and the Keck Foundation.
But the wall still has plenty of empty marble for what USC hopes will be many additional names over the next six years, as the Los Angeles university pursues the most ambitious publicly announced fundraising goal ever in U.S. academia: $6 billion by 2018.
The USC campaign, made public in August, already has garnered three new gifts of at least $100 million each, along with speculation about the potential risks of setting such an ambitious goal in a weak economy.
"Coming out with a $6-billion goal certainly generated a lot of conversation in the field, and they did it in a very bold and brash way. But that is a part of the makeup of USC and is different from the way the Ivy Leagues might treat that kind of thing," said Donald Fellows, president of Marts & Lundy, a prominent fundraising consulting firm with past ties to USC.