Government & Politics

University of Missouri campaign seeks $1.3 billion

Richard Kinder spoke at the announcement of the gift to the university.
Richard Kinder spoke at the announcement of the gift to the university.

Beneath the dome of Mizzou Arena, University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin stepped to the podium Thursday evening and announced the university’s largest campaign goal in its history.

The launch of the $1.3 billion “Mizzou: Our Time to Lead” campaign coincided with the announcement earlier in the day of the school’s third-largest academic gift.

The $25 million gift from Richard and Nancy Kinder and the Kinder Foundation will kick-start an institute to study constitutional democracy.

The money for the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy won’t erect a brick and mortar facility on the Columbia campus. Rather, the institute will be located on the fourth floor of the campus’ main library and will be a place for scholars and educators to discuss and dissect the underpinnings of what led to American democratic society.

Dollars from the big fundraising campaign will support much more, including new academic buildings and boosting the university endowment, which supports the school in perpetuity.

Currently MU has an endowment of $820 million. The income from those principal dollars creates nearly $37 million per year to support university programs, scholarships and research.

Campaign leaders expect the funding drive will increase the endowment to well beyond $1 billion.

University officials said state funding has not supported a new academic building on the Columbia campus in 12 years. Those leading the current campaign will seek public and private partnerships to pay for new facilities including a new School of Music building, a new Fine Arts building, a teaching winery and hall renovations.

“Private philanthropy is vital to the education and research mission of the university,” Loftin said in a statement Thursday. Thanking donors for their generosity, Loftin said that “growing our endowment will help position MU to be a leader in education and research... far into the future.”

MU is one of 23 universities around the country engaged in a funding campaign of $1.3 billion or more.

MU became a member of that billion dollar campaign club when it launched its first $1 billion campaign — For All We Call Mizzou — in 2000 and overshot the target by $38.9 million in 2009.

The university has already raised $650 million in a silent phase of the new campaign.

The Kinder gift got the public part of the campaign off to a good start.

Richard Kinder, co-founder of the Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. pipeline energy company, made the $25 million gift through his family foundation.

A native of Cape Girardeau, Kinder is the cousin of Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. As a Missouri graduate, Richard Kinder said he hopes his gift will transform the university into a national leader in the study of political thought and history.

The institute is an expansion of the Kinder Forum, which was created last year with a $1.67 million gift from the Kinder Foundation, led by Nancy Kinder, its president.

The gift announced Thursday “will allow us to attract top-notch faculty from across the country,” said Justin Dyer, director of the new institute. “It will allow us also to recruit and retain some of the best graduate students in the country. That will impact undergraduates who will be in contact with some of the top scholars in this field in the country.”

The institute seeks to play a major role in creating the next generation of teachers of American political thought and young scholars of democratic theory and practice.

As part of that effort, the Kinder gift, which is endowed in perpetuity, will support a scholars program that allows students to spend the summer working in Washington, D.C. The institute will also host campus discussion forums and create a minor studies program for undergraduates with courses open to students from any academic discipline represented at MU.

“I’ve been thinking about doing something for the university for some time,” said Richard Kinder, who as an undergraduate was a history major at MU. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1966 and a law degree from MU in 1968.

After college, Kinder was a lawyer in the energy business and co-founded Kinder Morgan in 1997. Today the company is considered the fourth-largest energy firm in North America. Kinder is its executive chairman.

The Kinders’ gift sits among the largest ever for the university.

The largest was $31 million in 2004 from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to establish the Reynolds Journalism Institute and construction of the facility where it is housed.

The second-largest academic gift — $30.1 million, in 2012 — also came from the Reynolds foundation to fund the journalism institute in perpetuity. Also that year the university’s athletic program received a $30 million gift from KC Sports Trust for upgrades to athletic facilities including renovations at Memorial Stadium.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc