Rallying Cry!

As Syracuse University launches its ambitious fund-raising campaign—and Maxwell, its $125-million chunk thereof—one key emphasis is the need to involve everyone.

More than $50 million of the $125 million Maxwell plans to raise during Syracuse University’s Forever Orange campaign will provide financial assistance to students, like these freshmen at this past summer’s new-student orientation.

David Van Slyke remembers when he was a junior faculty member at the Maxwell School and was asked to make his annual gift to, yes, the Maxwell School, his employer. He made it. His gift was necessarily modest, but also necessary.

“When the dean, who was Mitch Wallerstein at the time, went out and talked about the School, he wanted to be able to talk about the high percentage of alumni, faculty, parents, and staff who believed in Maxwell enough to lend their support,” Van Slyke remembers. “Donors don’t just provide funding. They provide momentum and validation.”

Now Van Slyke is himself the dean of the Maxwell School, at a time when Syracuse University has recently announced its most ambitious fund-raising campaign ever, called Forever Orange. The University plans to raise $1.5 billion over the course of the campaign; of that total, Maxwell set its goal at $125 million (the second highest among academic units at SU).

Almost as important, the University is trying to involve 125,000 unique donors, among whom Maxwell is expected to involve 10,000. That’s another ambitious goal. Since January 2013, when “pre-launch” fund-raising for Forever Orange started, Maxwell has received support from roughly 3,200 donors, in the amount of just under $60 million. There’s work to be done.

“A virtually universal interest among donors is to help make Maxwell affordable to students from across the economic spectrum.”
Laine Norton, assistant dean for advancement

“This is a call to action,” says Van Slyke. “Compared with peer institutions, our donor participation rate has been low. Even compared with many of the other schools and colleges at Syracuse University, we lag significantly.

“But that’s what a fund-raising campaign is about, in large part,” he adds. “This is a time to rally the troops—to say, ‘Your appreciation of and affection for Maxwell matters now more than ever. We need your vote of confidence.’”

Maxwell’s funding priorities run across a broad range, which allows many types of donors to get involved. Campaign goals touch upon programs across the School, with a significant portion targeting financial aid for students—a popular priority with most donors, according to Laine Norton, Maxwell’s assistant dean for advancement. “Many donors pursue specific passions when supporting Maxwell,” she explains, “such as supporting the department from which they graduated. But a virtually universal interest among donors—especially those making small or medium-sized gifts—is to help make Maxwell affordable to students from across the economic spectrum.”

The School plans to raise more than $50 million for student financial aid and research opportunities for students.

A similarly universal priority is the Dean’s Fund, through which annual gifts to Maxwell are pooled to provide an investment fund that School leaders can utilize flexibly, wherever unanticipated needs or opportunities arise.

Other specific goals reflect the School’s broadest values. Support for the faculty is targeted at $38 million, potentially including seven fully funded professorships. An additional $25 million is anticipated to support Maxwell’s interdisciplinary research centers and institutes.

At the University’s formal campaign launch on November 8, Shannon Monnat, Maxwell’s Lerner Chair for Public Health Promotion, described funded research in SU’s Aging Studies Institute and its entrepreneurial impact on policy and society.

Among more specialized priorities are the Veterans Program for Politics and Civic Engagement, new Ambassador in Residence and Executive in Residence positions, facility upgrades serving undergraduates, and support for faculty members based in Washington, D.C.

For Syracuse University, next year, 2020, marks SU’s sesquicentennial, and the celebration is already under way. The sense of momentum is high. Last year’s record-high fund raising was nine percent above the previous year’s.

For Maxwell there is a similar “rallying cry” based on the calendar. In little more than four years, when the campaign is expected to begin winding down, the Maxwell School will celebrate its centennial. The dean expects that this landmark, with its mixture of historical significance and promise for the future, will especially boost donor participation.

“What better way to celebrate 100 years,” Van Slyke says, “than to announce that, with everyone’s help, we are able to prepare for the next 100 years?”

“We expect that the Forever Orange campaign, SU anniversary, and our own impending centennial will prompt unprecedented participation in our fund raising,” he continues. “I hope everyone sees good reason to invest in Maxwell.”

Dana Cooke

This article appeared in the fall 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail