Campus News

Historic $2.1 Billion Campaign Will Make a UK Education More Accessible, Accelerate Research and Care

UK kicked off the "Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign" Sept. 14.

Video Produced by UK Public Relations & Marketing. To view captions for this video, push play and click on the CC icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.  If using a mobile device, click on the "thought bubble" in the same area.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 14, 2018) – The largest fundraising campaign in the history of the Commonwealth will create thousands of scholarships to expand access to education at the University of Kentucky and to dramatically accelerate UK’s efforts to solve the Commonwealth’s most challenging health and economic issues.

The $2.1 billion campaign – “Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign” – was announced Friday night at a special event attended by hundreds of friends of the university at the Bill Gatton Student Center.

“We were founded for the people of Kentucky,” said UK President Eli Capilouto in announcing the campaign. “This place has been – and continues to be – home to pioneers and providers, bold dreamers and strategic thinkers, who make our vision and work possible. Now, we have the opportunity, with a sense of dogged determination and boundless compassion and generosity, to write the next chapter for this university and for those we serve in the Commonwealth and beyond. 

“It is time to show the world what Kentucky can do.”

Specifically, the "Kentucky Can" campaign will focus on three major areas of support:

  • Funding 2,100 UK LEADS and other scholarships to ensure that more Kentuckians have access to a UK education and that they can graduate on time with reduced debt. The highly successful UK LEADS program is a nationally heralded initiative to eliminate financial need as an impediment to attending and graduating from the university.

“I was drawn to UK by the wonderful scholarship I was offered and rewarded with remarkable opportunities,” said Sara Khandani, a biology major from Lexington who will graduate in 2019. “I was able to participate in research, and I have access to world-class facilities and generous mentors. My scholarship is enabling me to graduate without crippling debt, allowing me to know I can pursue my dream of going to medical school.”

  • Endowing efforts – particularly between and among academic and research disciplines – that focus on solving the state’s most pressing challenges. Kentucky, for example, is among the nation’s leaders in opioid overdoses and deaths as well as many cancers, heart disease and diabetes. 

“Opioid addiction is a great, yet vicious equalizer. It does not discriminate based upon gender, socioeconomic status or education,” said Dr. Phillip Chang, chief medical officer for UK HealthCare. “At UK and UK HealthCare, we are working toward real, proven and effective solutions. With this campaign supporting our efforts, we can start and expand innovative therapy and treatment programs. The greatest opportunity to meet this challenge will come from UK HealthCare and the colleges across this campus, as solutions will be found at the intersection of multiple disciplines.” 

  • Growing the university’s endowment from about $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion in gifts, future commitments and investments, as part of an effort to fund recruitment and retention of leading scholars and continue to support development programs and initiatives that provide a foundation for the work of faculty, staff and students. 

"I was here as a graduate student, only able to earn a Ph.D. because of financial assistance, born in Kentucky, first generation to attend university.  My graduate degree transformed my life and opened a world of possibilities," said Gail Hoyt, a professor of economics in UK's Gatton College of Business and Economics.  "Now, I am here, starting my 24th year as a professor, giving back because I am thankful, enjoying the privilege of teaching 500 incoming freshmen every fall, tens of thousands of bright minds over the decades. I am here because the needs of Kentucky's students speak to me, and I teach them to use economics to improve their lives and their communities."

A fact sheet below provides more detail about funding goals among focus areas, as well as quotes from key campaign leaders.

“No one is immune to challenges. No path worth taking is without obstacles,” said Britt Brockman, chair of UK’s Board of Trustees. “How we respond to these challenges will determine who we are, what we are able to achieve, and the legacy we leave. With this campaign, we have the opportunity to determine our future, and the future of the Commonwealth we serve.”

UK already has raised more than $1 billion toward the campaign goal. Over the next few months, kick-off events will be held in a number of cities in the region and across the country to expand fundraising efforts. 

UK’s previous comprehensive campaign – the first in its history – raised $1 billion, concluding in 2007. It focused largely on endowed faculty positions and supporting continued infrastructure development.  

This campaign is distinctive, said Campaign Co-Chair Mira Ball, for its specific focus on eliminating student debt and expanding affordable access to a UK education for more Kentuckians.

“I graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1956 when tuition was $65 a semester,” said Ball, co-founder of Ball Homes, the state’s largest homebuilder. “We need to ensure tuition doesn’t prohibit a single bright mind from getting an education. We do more for the state than ever before. I believe giving is a joy, and I want us all to enjoy the fact that we can help.”

Campaign Co-Chair Paul Chellgren said the scope of the campaign reflects the integral role UK plays in supporting the Commonwealth’s future and addressing the challenges that exist.

“The University of Kentucky is a place where the impact of your gift is enormous, immediate and profound,” said Chellgren, former CEO of Ashland Inc. “Here, a gift is not one in a sea of many. Here, we move the needle. The University of Kentucky is a place of great opportunity for me and for many. The availability of that opportunity is dependent upon us.”

The campaign also comes at a critical juncture for the university, said Mike Richey, UK’s vice president for philanthropy and alumni engagement. In the last seven years, under Capilouto’s leadership, UK has started or completed some $2.3 billion in construction of new residence halls, laboratories and classrooms, clinical care support and athletics facilities – an effort to transform the campus and to position it for growth in education, research, service and health care.

The institution, Richey said, has a strategic plan that contemplates record retention and graduation rates and an aggressive expansion of its health care and research capacity toward solving Kentucky’s most serious challenges. 

Investment in facilities is part of the equation, he said. So, too, is significant investment in students, staff and scholars and the tools they need to succeed.

“Now, we stand at a precipice, where once again we are being called to ensure our future,” Richey said. “We are beginning a campaign – and an effort that will be defined by a sense of ineffable persistence – to determine our future viability and our dreams for Kentucky.

“This campaign will build bridges for students to receive an affordable education; for faculty to teach and conduct research that inspires, heals, creates and impacts the quality of life for all Kentuckians … This is our time to determine the future we want and to create it. This is our time to ask ourselves – what is the legacy we want to leave.

Together, we must.

Together, Kentucky can.”

For more information about “Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign,” go to:


"Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign” Goals and Initiatives

Students and scholars

  • Provide 2,100 LEADS and other scholarships.
  • Grow the scholarship endowment by $300 million.
  • Make college more affordable for Kentucky residents.
  • Increase the six-year graduation rate to 70 percent.

Research and scholarship

  • Create solutions to the issues we face: cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and substance abuse.
  • Assemble more research teams focused on improving Kentuckians’ overall health.
  • Attract and retain top talent.
  • Raise $95 million to complete a research facility focused on health disparities in Kentucky.

Endowment and support for the work we do

  • Grow our endowment to $2.1 billion, currently at $1.5 billion.
  • Increase scholarships, offering an affordable education to more UK students.
  • Create a sustainable path for funding programs for the life of the university.
  • Equip our facilities with the latest technology, better preparing students for their lives and careers.


  • Provide 350 scholarships for our student-athletes.
  • Commit to each student-athlete and their academic and athletic success.
  • Ensure state-of-the-art facilities for 22 teams.
  • Fully modernize Memorial Coliseum, home to our great tradition of excellence and our heritage in honor of Kentucky veterans and several of our teams.
  • Create enhanced academic facilities and general scholarships.


Quotes from key campaign leaders:

Sherri Bullard, community leader: "Kentucky is facing unprecedented challenges. The success of this University is linked to the success of the community and the Commonwealth … We feel it’s time to step forward and encourage everyone to step up."

Jed Bullard, chairman of Kentucky-based E.D. Bullard Co., international manufacturer of personal protective equipment: "The University helps create the positive community we must never take for granted … For our business to compete globally, this aspirational environment is critical. It’s time to come together to support UK, because it’s not just good business, it’s the right thing to do."

Joe Craft, president and CEO of Alliance Resource Management Partners: “The University of Kentucky is a partner that can help me leverage my giving … And there’s no better place to give than to the University of Kentucky, if you want to make a difference, if you want to partner with someone to change people’s lives.”

F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D., physician, engineer and entrepreneur: "I believe in God’s master plan in our lives, how each person we encounter leaves a mark – and we are more because of it. My purpose is to leave that positive mark on others."

Jim Hardymon, retired CEO of Textron and former chair of the UK Board of Trustees: "I feel I have been overly lucky and should give back … I’ve seen the difference (UK) makes. We are seeing greater retention and graduation rates of students. The University is in a period of positive momentum. Let’s keep it going."

Cathy Jacobs, philanthropist and community leader:  “For me, giving is so much more than writing a check. It is reaching out and touching a life, uplifting a soul. The University of Kentucky is building a legacy and through it, my husband Don and I want to have left a legacy of helping the community and the future of the state.”

Stanley Pigman, entrepreneur and longtime UK benefactor: “The effort we make and the time and money we spend helping students … and mentoring students is exactly what we should be doing with our resources, and I believe it’s my life purpose.”

Karen Pigman, longtime UK benefactor: “It’s important to give because some people aren’t as fortunate as we are … the shining moment is when students graduate and you get to see the smile on their faces and the deep pleasure of their parents and their loved ones that come to see them graduate.”

Mark F. Newman, M.D., UK executive vice president for health affairs: "This is an opportunity to address some of the critical health care issues that Kentuckians face. By bolstering our clinical initiatives, ground-breaking research and by educating the next generation of scientists and patient care providers, Kentucky can make a significant difference in the well-being of our citizens, now and in the future.  Working together throughout our academic medical campus to engage and collaborate with the health profession colleges gives us a unique advantage in fighting, preventing and overcoming some of our greatest health challenges."

Mitch Barnhart, director of athletics at UK: “We are embarking on a new campaign that challenges us in ways we have never before been challenged. There is a reason for that though: we are trying to achieve in ways we have never before achieved. When you support this campaign and UK Athletics, you are supporting us in our mission to be elite in everything we do: from competition to facilities to student-athlete experience.”

"Kentucky Can" logo over photo of student
"Kentucky Can" logo over photo of students
"Kentucky Can" logo on photo of professors
"Kentucky Can" logo