Changing Lives Through Philanthropy

Cathy Jacobs – and her late husband Don – are leaving a legacy through actions that transform the lives of our students, faculty, and staff.

The most recent action in their long history of philanthropy was a $10 million gift to enhance science education at UK and name the new Science Building in their honor. Collectively, Don and Cathy Jacobs’ impact is in excess of $20 million, advancing the teaching, research, service, and health care delivery of Kentucky’s indispensable flagship and land grant research university – a University for Kentucky.

The extent to which they touch lives measures in the tens of thousands, and the ripple effect of those lives transformed is, I believe, boundless.

Indeed, philanthropy is not only about today. It is not only about bricks and mortar. It is about the faculty, staff, and students who are here today, tomorrow, and a future we do not yet see or know. The Jacobs are part of a long list of change agents who are helping transform the University of Kentucky.

I’m humbled by the pace at which that list continues to grow, and the meaningful ways in which the UK family harnesses their investment in us. Consider just a few of the ways in which our university is better serving others:

• In the last five years, we initiated or approved some $2.1 billion in capital investments to improve student success, instruction, research and discovery, and health care. Approximately 91 percent of that investment is the result of public-private partnerships, philanthropy, strategic use of university resources, and support from UK Athletics.

• We welcomed successive record-setting, freshmen classes that have joined the UK family and moved total enrollment past 30,700. These students are succeeding at higher levels, translating to record degree attainment, including more than 6,600 degrees conferred over the last academic year.

• Since 2011, we’ve increased UK’s investment in student financial aid and scholarships by $60 million—now up to $117 million – doubling the investment in the last decade.

• Faculty and staff researchers added to a growing portfolio of transformative research, discovery, and creative scholarship. In fiscal year 2015-16, UK received $316.5 million in external research grants and contracts – signifying that we are a major player among research institutions in the country.

• UK HealthCare continues to meet the needs of patients and families who require complex, quality health care through our network of providers and state-of-the-art academic medical center. Annual patient discharges have grown by more than 95 percent since 2003.

• In total, our work yields 12-fold return on the Commonwealth’s investment in its flagship university. UK’s research enterprise has a more than $580 million impact on Kentucky’s economy. More than two-thirds of graduates are employed in Kentucky after graduation, not including the graduates who find employment out-of-state or continue to graduate school.

This institution, and the members of the UK family, have boldly confronted challenges, risen to meet new opportunities, and redefined what it means to be the University for Kentucky over the last 150 years. But our work today – and our focus on the future – reminds us in compelling ways of our legacy, our history of confronting and overcoming challenge to meet the needs of those we serve.

In the wake of the First World War, amid a tumultuous period in our history, President Frank McVey believed that the university needed to be viewed, “as more than an economic asset. It served, in fact, as an essential component of the well-being of the state, and in that position it needs to be free to seek truth.” In his words, he concluded that, “what will save this nation after the war are the universities.”

Each day we are, together, grappling with how we continue to fulfill this vision. We are working with a sense of common purpose at an uncommon and distinctive place to find those answers. Philanthropy makes our success possible – through it, we change lives.

In her words, Cathy Jacobs believes, “Giving is more than simply writing a check. It’s reaching out and touching someone’s life.”

As a UK family, I look forward to how we – as Don and Cathy Jacobs have done – do more to change lives, together.