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‘We Will’ Campaign Unites Northwestern Community

More than 174,000 donors worldwide came together for the University’s historic fundraising initiative.

campus we will hero
A total of 61 buildings were renovated or built on Northwestern’s campuses during the “We Will” Campaign.

Fall 2021

We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, which was publicly announced in 2014, set out to amplify the University’s local and global impact and to elevate its status as a leading teaching and research institution. Seven years later, the Campaign’s effects can be felt everywhere — from campus life to facilities and the research enterprise — and by everyone — from students to faculty and staff. Success was achieved by connecting the larger University community to the cause of transforming Northwestern.

The “We Will” Campaign surpassed its goals not once, but twice, ultimately bringing in more than $6 billion from 174,000-plus unique donors — alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends. Those contributions went to support every corner of the University.

“You can’t set foot on campus or read anything about Northwestern and not see the impact the Campaign has had,” says Campaign Co-Chair and University Trustee Bon French ’75, ’76 MBA. “Physically, look at all the new buildings we’ve built in Evanston and downtown Chicago — whether it’s the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, Kellogg Global Hub or Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center.” Northwestern Athletics also benefited from the addition of new and renovated spaces for the University’s 500-plus student-athletes. Altogether, 61 buildings were renovated or constructed during the Campaign.

The Campaign also enhanced the activities conducted in those facilities, including groundbreaking research in areas such as sustainability and global health. Funding for research has escalated since the Campaign began. Awards from federal agencies, foundations and corporations totaled $887.3 million in 2020 — an increase of more than 11% over the previous year — making Northwestern the largest academic research site in Illinois. Additionally, philanthropic gifts to Northwestern Medicine helped drive high-impact clinical innovation, accelerate cutting-edge scientific discovery and educate the next generation of medical leaders. Nearly half of the funds raised in the Campaign, more than $2.74 billion, have been designated to Northwestern Medicine.

Paula B. Pretlow ’77, ’78 MBA, University trustee and Campaign co-chair for participation, adds: “We’ve been able to fund interdisciplinary research and see the results of discoveries that will make the world a better place.” Much of that research is led by faculty, whose recruitment and retention are critical to the University’s long-term success. More than 85 endowed professorships were established during the Campaign. Meanwhile, more than 525 endowed scholarships and fellowships were made possible. In total, Campaign giving to financial aid topped $522.8 million, 44% of which is for undergraduate scholarships. 

The Lanny and Sharon Martin Atrium at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago was completed during the Campaign.


Northwestern had to pivot in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the University provided financial support for students adjusting to a virtual learning environment. At the same time, Northwestern sharpened its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, making a commitment to advance racial and social justice and make the University more inclusive.

“The scholarships and other opportunities created by the Campaign will allow for even greater diversity of our students and our faculty,” says Pretlow, noting that 21% of the incoming Class of 2025 is Pell Grant eligible. “We have paved the way for Northwestern to stand out in terms of diversity among its peer institutions.”

The Campaign ended on a high note for all involved. More than 925 volunteers contributed to its completion, including members of regional, international, gift planning, and school and program committees.

Serving as Campaign co-chair for participation allowed Pretlow to share her Purple Pride, as well as “highlight what a great institution we are,” she says. “I’ve loved having the opportunity to meet so many fellow alums and friends of the University — it’s been energizing.” 

Meeting so many “gracious and generous alumni” was a highlight for French too, he says. “I’m so grateful for how Northwestern changed my life, both as an undergrad and as a Kellogg student. It’s been very meaningful for me to contribute as co-chair of the ‘We Will’ Campaign.”

In looking back at everything Northwestern accomplished these past few years, “I’m most proud of the way the University, the trustees and the alumni came together to support the Campaign,” French continues. “It built momentum and was really inspiring.”

That momentum will continue beyond the Campaign, which helped broaden and deepen philanthropic support for the University — and will impact generations to come. “Every student deserves the opportunity to thrive once they arrive at Northwestern,” Pretlow says. “We are securing the future of students yet to be.”

For a complete list of the Campaign Steering Committee members who helped lead “We Will” fundraising efforts, turn to page 59. To make a gift to Northwestern, visit

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