STORRS — The University of Connecticut Foundation had its best fundraising year ever, bringing in more than $81 million in new gifts and commitments in the fiscal year that ended on June 30.
The $81.4 million raised represents a sharp increase over the 2013 fundraising total of $63.7 million, which also set a record. In 2012, the foundation raised $60 million.
"This is just astounding,'' Marilda L. Gandara, a member of the university's board of trustees, said during the panel's monthly meeting Wednesday morning.
Gandara attributed the campaign's success to Joshua R. Newton, the foundation's new president and CEO. Newton came to Connecticut in September from Emory University, where he led a seven-year fundraising effort that yielded $1.7 billion for the private university based in Atlanta.
At UConn, Newton helped secure several significant gifts and commitments, including an $11 million commitment from a family that has already donated $1 million, which was earmarked for the University of Connecticut Health Center.
The donors, who Newton said asked not to be identified, have earmarked $5 million of their new commitment to the health center; the remaining $6 million will be used for scholarships and other aid for undergraduates, Newton said.
The gift is significant for more than its size, Newton said. The commitment is part of the donors' estate plan, meaning it would transfer to the university upon death.
The donors are not UConn graduates, Newton said. But they had a positive experience at the University of Connecticut Health Center and "care very much about patients and research in particular disciplines,'' Newton said. "Because he and his wife are Connecticut residents, they care deeply about Connecticut and wanted the other half to be for student scholarships, for undergraduates.''
The UConn Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that supports the university, recently was the target of criticism for helping to underwrite a speech by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential candidate. The foundation paid Clinton more than $250,000, using money donated by the Fusco family of New Haven, which established the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum to bring "outstanding scholars, leaders and policy makers" to Storrs.
The foundation is largely exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act, something critics have been pressing to change. Newton said the foundation is subject to the same rules as all other nonprofit groups, and is subject to regular audits and controls. "We have tremendous accountability across the system,'' he said.
Also at Wednesday's board meeting, the trustees approved a number of projects related to Next Generation Connecticut, a 10-year, $1.5 billion effort to transform UConn into a leading center for research and innovation.
Among the projects approved were a new dormitory for science and math majors on the Storrs campus, and a multistory research center that will provide lab space for scientists and entrepreneurs to work side by side with UConn researchers.