Campaign for Columbia (1966)

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The ill-fated $200 million dollar Campaign for Columbia was announced by Grayson Kirk at the Charter Day dinner on October 31, 1966.[1] It was the first comprehensive university-wide capital campaign in school history, and the largest ever mounted by an American university.

While periodic capital campaigns had become common at Columbia's peer schools since the 1920's, Columbia had never undertaken such a campaign. In fact Kirk had been told at the beginning of his tenure by the chairman of the trustees to not bother about fund raising at all. But in 1964, with the university losing money and most of it's endowment tied up low-yield in real estate, and at the urging of Lawrence Chamberlain (then serving as the vice president of academic administration), Kirk chose to break new ground.

With two pledges totaling $35 million from the Ford Foundation, the campaign was to last an estimated 3 years, with the funds going towards faculty salaries, and more spectacularly, a massive physical expansion across Morningside Heights.

Needless to say, history, in the form of the 1968 protests, intervened. Andrew Cordier terminated the campaign in 1970, $20 million short of its goal.

Prof. Robert McCaughey argues that the timing of the campaign may in fact have contributed to the circumstances that resulted in the protests. The campaign meant that Kirk would be spending a significant amount of his time, energy, and focus off-campus, not to mention that it most likely heightened sensitivity to media coverage of the school. Additionally, the campaign may have been partially behind significant turnover in the administration prior to the 1967-68 school year, including the retirement of Chamberlain, and Jacques Barzun leaving his post as provost and returning to teaching.

External links

Preceded by
University Capital Campaign 
Succeeded by
Campaign for Columbia (1982)


  1. McCaughey refers to it as the Founder's Day Dinner in Stand, Columbia.