Capping a campaign

University of Missouri supporters celebrated the successful conclusion of the "Mizzou: Our Time to Lead" campaign and its record-breaking $1.41 billion total.

Sept. 25, 2020
Contact: Liz McCune, 573-882-6212,

sticks with pawprints on them appear on Francis Quadrangle in front of the columns

More than 3,000 tiger paws popped up on the Francis Quadrangle Sept. 21 — each representing a "Mizzou: Our Time to Lead" scholarship recipient.

Since 2012, the University of Missouri has been pushing toward its goal to raise $1.3 billion as part of the Mizzou: Our Time to Lead campaign. Focused on raising money for scholarships, enhancing research and advancing the physical infrastructure of the university, a familiar couple helped push MU to its final total. Longtime university supporters Dick and Donna Otto committed a $2 million estate gift that pushed the campaign over the $1.4 billion mark.

The Ottos, both of whom have bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MU — hers in nursing and his in accountancy and public administration — will support a new Sinclair School of Nursing building project through their gift as well as a scholarship in Donna’s name, and an endowment in honor of Dick’s mother.

“If you have been associated with nursing at any point over the last 50 years, it’s likely you've gotten to know the Ottos,” said Jackie Lewis, vice chancellor for Advancement. “Their story will be told through the students and faculty whose lives have been enhanced by the Ottos’ legacy of service and support.”

The Ottos were two of more than 176,000 Tigers who contributed to the campaign’s success. Their giving story was shared along with many others as part of the Mizzou: Our Time to Lead virtual celebration. The event was emceed by John Anderson (BJ ’87), ESPN SportsCenter anchor and campaign donor, and featured a series of stories about the campaign’s impact. Jean Whitley (Bs Acc, M Acc ’17) shared his story of receiving the Vasey Academy scholarship as a student, only to return later as an alumnus to give back to the same scholarship that enabled his success. He was one of 3,107 students who received support from new scholarships created since the campaign began in 2012. Students from the Mizzou New Music Ensemble performed an original piece called Construction at new and updated locations across campus. Learn more at the Our Time to Lead webpage.

In total, 80% of gifts given during the campaign were outright gifts and pledges, and 20% were deferred gifts, like the Ottos’. Major areas of giving include support for students, faculty, programs and facilities. The comprehensive campaign was led by Tom Hiles, former vice chancellor for Advancement, who launched the campaign in 2015 and retired over the summer, as well as campaign tri-chairs Cathy Allen, José Gutiérrez and Richard Miller.

“Their strong leadership and the support of the entire university community were instrumental in the campaign’s success,” said Mun Choi, UM system president and MU chancellor. “I’m so inspired by the commitment of our alumni and friends to lead Mizzou into its future of excellence. Their generosity will make a great impact on our talented students, faculty and staff as they continue to advance the university through student success, research and engagement.”

Two of the four goals of the campaign — enhancing MU’s status as one of America’s leading research universities and spurring a campus renaissance with new and renovated facilities — dovetailed with the NextGen Precision Health initiative, which has been described as the most ambitious project in Mizzou’s history and received an infusion of financial support through the campaign. The initiative and building at Mizzou, which was featured prominently in the event, is focused on accelerating medical breakthroughs for patients in Missouri and beyond while increasing collaboration among UM System scientists and industry partners.

Another key goal of the campaign is focused on supporting students. Earlier this month, U.S. News & World Report announced that Mizzou had risen in its rankings of top universities, up 15 positions to No. 124. The improvement is due in part to a growing number of students attending Mizzou with an institutional scholarship, aid that helps students attend Mizzou who couldn’t otherwise attend. From academic year 2018-19 to 2019-20, the percentage of students receiving scholarships increased from 50% to 58%, a testament to the impact of the campaign. In addition to scholarships, funds like Rally Mizzou were created during the campaign to provide additional support to help students get to graduation. Thanks to Rally Mizzou, nearly 100% of awardees completed their degrees.

“We know, nationally, the No. 1 reason that students leave without their degree is finances,” said Jim Spain, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies and eLearning, who worked with the Missouri Student Foundation and Advancement to raise money through Rally Mizzou for students already enrolled in Mizzou who needed financial help. “We rallied and reached out to alumni, friends and donors, to help us have the financial resources that we know our students and their families are going need — and rally they did and support our Tigers they have!”

Highlights from the campaign include:

  • The creation of 30 endowed positions for named faculty chairs, professorships, fellows and scholars.
  • A 101% increase in the endowment, reaching $1,177,573,000 in January 2020.
  • The establishment of four signature centers and institutes with $10 million-plus endowments.
  • The commitment of 14,292 volunteer Tigers during the final year of the campaign.

For the Ottos, their gift was an opportunity to give back to an institution that has given them so much.

“We’re proud of the university,” Dick Otto said.

“I was 19, he was 20 when we got married,” Donna Otto added. “We’ve celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary already. Part of our success is being able to have a very loving relationship and a commitment to the same passion: Mizzou.”

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