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Clearing obstacles, Canisius nets record $95.5 million in campaign

It took a bit longer than expected, but Canisius College has wrapped up its largest fundraising campaign in school history, surpassing its $90 million goal thanks to several large donations in the final weeks of giving.

Canisius raised $95.5 million during its "Legacy of Leadership" campaign, which concluded at the end of May, college officials said.

"The fact that it took a little longer is really of minor significance to me," said Canisius President John J. Hurley. "When we announced this in 2007, I think a lot of people said, 'Well, maybe that will happen.' "

Canisius went public with the campaign in late 2007, before the financial markets collapsed and the nation plunged into one of its worst recessions.

That threw a wrench into plans to conclude the campaign by the time the Rev. Vincent M. Cooke stepped down as Canisius president in June 2010, when the college was only two-thirds of the way to its goal.

"What happened in 2008 was really monumental," Hurley said. "From a fundraising perspective that really shook people's confidence. We went probably a good 18 months without anything happening."

But giving has rebounded -- at Canisius and other institutions -- and this year is going to go down as the best fundraising year ever for the Jesuit college on Main Street, Hurley said.

Several large gifts in the final weeks of the campaign put the initiative over the top, including two $1 million gifts from former Canisius trustees, $2 million from local philanthropist Patrick P. Lee and $1 million from board Chairwoman Catherine M. Burzik and her husband, Frank.

In fact, that news complements a February survey by the Council for Aid to Education, which showed that charitable contributions to U.S. colleges and universities increased by 8.2 percent last year.

"I think people are beginning to feel a little more confident, even though the economy is still unsettled," Hurley said.

In the end, nearly 20,000 people donated to the Canisius campaign, which included 24 gifts of $1 million or more and the three largest gifts in Canisius history.

The campaign raised $44.7 million for endowed scholarships and programs; $21.9 million in gifts for the Canisius Fund; $2 million to develop the Library Learning Commons; and $26.9 million to develop Science Hall, which includes the money to buy the building at Main Street and Jefferson Avenue and renovate the first two floors.

The college originally set out to raise more for Science Hall, but now plans to use a combination of resources to complete the rest of the building over the next few years.

email: jrey@buffnews.com