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When you graduate from college, it's pretty much expected that you'll send a few bucks back, helping provide the same experience you had for the thousands of students who will follow in your footsteps.

It might be $25 the first year. Then $100 and maybe $1,000 for the big things, like your department centennial. If your alma mater is lucky, the professors taught you enough that when you make enough money,  eventually, you'll return the favor with a check.

Only a few grads become wealthy enough to contribute a sum large enough to have a conference room named for them, or for the really big donations, an actual building.  

No, most annual donations are much smaller contributions that add up to a big number.

Then, there are special campaigns, like "Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State," that come every decade or so, with a specific goal to keep students, teachers, programs and campus on the leading edge.

Redbirds Rising, which started quietly in 2013, is now public, with a goal of raising $150 million by June 30, 2020.

ISU's first comprehensive fundraising campaign, Redefining Normal, ended in 2004 and raised $96 million. 

By the looks of things, the new campaign will be just a successful. More than $103 million in gifts and commitments from more than 41,000 donors already have been received, said Pat Vickerman, ISU's vice president for university advancement.

The school also has added 14,000 new donors in recent years and raised more than $21 million in private gifts in each of the last three fiscal years.

The new campaign focuses on three “primary pillars:” scholarship, leadership and innovation — each designed to improve the academic experience for students and faculty.

The first involves students and faculty support. Leadership includes programs and experiential learning. Innovation refers to creative work spaces and technology. Each were chosen after consulting with the provost, deans and academic leaders. 

 “It's an opportunity to tell our story and the great things happening at Illinois State,” said Vickerman. 

No one in the Twin City area needs to be reminded of ISU's importance to the community. Not just as one of the largest employers, but as an institution that has a solid reputation in academics, management and for fiscal responsibiltiy.

Too many of Illinois' public universities are struggling because of declining enrollments, and a hangover from the state's budget crisis that only recently was settled.

ISU weathered that two-year storm in good shape, relatively speaking, and now wants to move forward. 

The new campaign will help the school do that and we applaud Illinois State's leaders for their initiative and having faith that its thousands of donors and alumni living across the country will help get them there. 

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