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Donors Give UCI Record Amount

Despite a transplant scandal and negative publicity, the school raises $101.4 million.

July 13, 2006|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

A liver transplant scandal and a spate of negative publicity didn't stop UC Irvine from raising a record $101.4 million in the last 12 months, school officials announced Wednesday.

The private donations and grants from corporations and foundations included nearly $14 million for UCI's new hospital in Orange.

"We are humbled and astonished," said Tom Mitchell, the school's fund-raising chief, who was worried a few months ago that news coverage of UCI's medical controversies might crimp donations.

Since November, UCI has been stung by revelations of troubles with its organ-transplant programs, anesthesiology department, cardiologists' credentials and hiring practices. The FBI is investigating the disbanded liver program, and state health officials criticized the psychiatric unit for mishandling a patient who committed suicide.

Mitchell said recent news coverage exaggerated UCI's woes.

"In any big organization, there are always going to be some issues from time to time," he said. "But 99% of the things that happen here are all good and wonderful."

U.S. News & World Report recently named UCI Medical Center one of the nation's 50 best hospitals for cancer, gynecology, urology and digestive disorders. UCI was the only Orange County hospital the magazine listed.

UCI officials recently rejiggered their fund-raising strategy for the medical center, sending Chancellor Michael V. Drake, an ophthalmologist, to meetings with business leaders and donors.

"We had to get our story out -- and we had to get it out ourselves," Mitchell said.

The tactic paid off. About half of the checks written for UCI's new hospital came in the last three months.

Campuswide, donations sailed past the previous record of nearly $88 million in fiscal 1999, Drake said Wednesday at a luncheon attended by donors, alumni and school leaders.

Other positive signs include an 11% rise in admission applications as well as a sharp upswing in alumni financial support.

Because UCI is a relatively young campus, just 41 years old, it hasn't been able to rely as heavily on alumni support as more-established schools do. Although Drake said 90% of this year's gifts came from non-alumni sources, the number and value of alumni checks doubled to $8 million.

The university also received $19.6 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for research on controlling dengue fever.

And the number of million-dollar donations from individuals jumped from the usual dozen to 26.

"That's what really drove our numbers," Mitchell said.

UCI raised the $101.4 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30 -- the highest amount collected by an Orange County organization, school officials said.

"At no time in the university's history has the community more decisively, warmly and generously embraced this campus," Drake said. "This was truly a remarkable year."

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