STANFORD — The research that goes on in Stanford University Vice President Henry E. Riggs' office won't solve scientific riddles or shed new light on Shakespeare.
His staff doesn't peer through microscopes or manuscripts. They pore through "Who's Who," proxy statements, corporate directories, club lists and other indices of wealth in America.
Riggs, who calls himself Stanford's "sales manager," runs a fund-raising operation that last year brought in $125 million for his alma mater. His development office boasts a budget of $9 million and a staff of 190, including one fellow whose sole job is to court donors of $5 million and up.
Biggest Sales Drive Ever
The bow-tied Riggs, a professor of industrial engineering and a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, is preparing to launch the biggest sales drive ever for an American university: a centennial campaign to raise $1 billion.
The drive won't officially start until late this year or early in 1987. But Stanford is setting the pace in what has become an explosion of fund-raising drives at campuses across America.
A quarter-century ago, Stanford launched the first $100-million university fund-raising drive, spurred by a $25-million challenge grant from the Ford Foundation. In the 1970s it raised the ante again with the first $300-million drive. Both met their mark.
Today, 40 universities and medical centers are embarked on $100-million-plus campaigns, with combined goals of nearly $7 billion, according to the fund-raising firm of Brakeley, John Price Jones Inc. Eighty other universities also are out trolling for gifts totaling $10 million to $90 million.
The nation's 3,200 colleges and universities raised $5.6 billion in gifts in 1983-84 alone.
"Most everybody, if they're not in a capital campaign, they're at the edge of one," says Alvin P. Brannick, vice president for development at Carnegie-Mellon University, which just launched a $200-million drive. "When one stops, another starts."
What will Stanford do with $1 billion?
Create 100 new endowed professorships at $1.5 million apiece. Rebuild, at a cost of $250 million, what Stanford President Donald Kennedy has called its "shantytown" of temporary science and engineering buildings that sprang up after World War II. Construct new dorms to eliminate a housing squeeze, and perhaps even get rid of the campus trailer park. Fund scholarships and independent study for undergraduates. Open new sports facilities. Graduate fellowships. Research centers. The list goes on.
Geology professor Tjeerd H. van Andel says, "You not only have to have valid academic goals . . . they also have to be sexy enough that you can get money for them."
The centennial goals--in the half-billion-dollar range--will be on top of the $500 million-plus that Stanford expects to raise in the next four years from its regular fund-raising activities.
About a third of the money will wind up in the university's already robust endowment ($1.4 billion last fall), generating income to cover the costs of education and research that even tuition of $11,208 a year pays only a portion of.
'A Large Business'
Stanford Provost James N. Rosse says raising $1 billion over four years "will label us as something we are: a large business. . .that needs a large amount of money to work."
Every other university has a similar tale to tell of great needs and limited resources.
Their appeals have not fallen on deaf ears. America's blue-chip universities have surpassed even the loftiest goals of late.
Currently, Columbia University is shooting for $500 million, revised upward from its original goal in 1982 of $400 million. Columbia has $390 million in cash and pledges in its coffers with more than a year to go. It launched that drive with a Broadway-style show on a night when an alumnus bathed the Empire State Building in the Lions' blue-and-white colors.
Johns Hopkins University spent $230,000 on the extravaganza that kicked off its $450-million campaign in 1984, a tent party that featured Steve Allen as emcee, a brass band, an 80-voice student chorus, 45 slide projectors, four video projectors, 38 microphones, two laser beam projectors and a dry-ice machine emitting "smoke."
Hopkins has already raised $250 million. "A lot of people thought we were being arrogant," says Morris W. Offit, a New York investment counselor who chairs the campaign. "Now we have to start thinking about possibly raising our sights."
Carnegie-Mellon kicked off its campaign with a $400,000 show at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena hosted by singer Andy Williams and featuring Jerry Lewis and other entertainers. Some Carnegie-trained stars, including Charles Haid and Barbara Bossom of television's "Hill Street Blues" and Robert Foxworth of "Falcon Crest," backed out to protest their alma mater's acceptance of defense contracts.
The nation's oldest and wealthiest university, Harvard, completed a five-year drive for its college and public policy schools in 1984 with $359 million. Its original goal was $250 million.