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A Special Appeal from the Department Head

Dr. Steven C. ZimmermanOne of the great joys of being department head is getting together with Illinois chemists all across this nation. The most common sentiment they voice is how special our program is—the extraordinary faculty, the state-of-the-art facilities, and the helpful staff. Very often I hear an alumnus say "I really owe much of my success to my time at Illinois."

We continue to provide that same remarkable experience to today’s students, despite the diminishing support from the State of Illinois (now less than 19 percent of our budget). However, the financial crisis that has gripped the country is threatening us as well, and today I must turn to our good friends and outstanding alumni, many of whom have already partnered with us. Please help us maintain the considerable momentum we have built in the past few years. I would particularly like to encourage those of you who have not given before, or done so infrequently, to make an annual gift or a multi-year pledge. So that your gift will have maximum impact, we have created a new fund called Chemistry Vision 2020. With this fund we have set a very ambitious goal of creating a $20 million endowment by the year 2020. This new fund will replace the Partnership for Chemistry Fund, which has for many years provided current use funds that were vital in meeting our most urgent needs.

Vision 2020 will be endowed. This is a major change that will require some belt tightening in the near term. However, upon reaching our goal, the Vision 2020 Fund will provide an annual income of at least $1 million and put our department in a very strong position for the future. I provide more details on page 20. I hope you will take a look and consider supporting Vision 2020.

Why is annual giving so important? Some of our alumni tell me that they don’t give because they don’t think it makes a difference, particularly in comparison to the very large gifts that they have read about recently. In fact, large gifts have a large impact, but they are often targeted—to an endowed chair that enables us to recruit a specific faculty member or to an endowed graduate fellowship fund that provides student stipends. The annual fund allows us to send a student to a national meeting or to purchase a new set of pH meters for the general chemistry laboratories. There are countless other needs where an annual gift will have a direct and distinct impact on our students and programs.

In the last newsletter I wrote about the outstanding faculty and students that we have recruited and the remarkable discoveries that are being made in Roger Adams, Noyes, and the Chemical Life Sciences Laboratories. Much of this has been accomplished with the help of our friends and alumni. If you need some external evidence, I can add the following: In 2007, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked the Department of Chemistry at Illinois as 1st in the nation in scholarly productivity for public institutions. For all institutions, public and private, Chemistry at Illinois ranked 3rd behind only MIT and Harvard. That is the momentum to which I referred.

Many of our alumni are concerned about their own economic future and that is understandable. However, please keep in mind that even small gifts will make a difference because of the power we have in numbers. I hope we can count on you to help make our future as bright as our past. Please do look at the giving section at the back of this newsletter for more details on the Chemistry Vision 2020 Fund and to see how you can have a direct impact. And feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

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