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You jog a little – around the block mostly. A friend suggests a marathon. Why not, you think. It’ll be a challenge.

You train for months for the physical and mental rigors ahead. The gun finally sounds, and you’re off. Up hills, down hills, around corners, you keep chugging along – better than you thought possible. You’re nearing the finish line in record time.

Then the unthinkable happens. Your friend – with you stride for stride – says let’s keep going.

That’s the decision that University of Missouri-St. Louis officials faced five years into the seven-year Gateway for Greatness Campaign. UMSL had achieved its $100 million goal in June 2010.

UMSL’s campaign chairman, George Paz of Express Scripts, advised Chancellor Tom George to reset the campaign goal. The chancellor received similar encouragement from alumni and corporate leaders.

So what did UMSL decide to do? It upped its goal to $150 million by June 2012.

That’s right. UMSL decided to keep running.

And for good reason, says Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Martin Leifeld.

“The need for scholarships and investment in our programs and facilities has never been greater,” Leifeld says. “So we’re running hard and the community is responding.”

At the Founders Dinner in September, the campaign stood at $129 million in gifts and pledges. Eight individuals or corporations made commitments of $1 million or more since UMSL reset it goal. The million-dollar-plus donors since 2005 stand at 24.

Warner Baxter, president and chief executive officer of Ameren Missouri, one of those million-dollar-donor companies, says Ameren’s investment in UMSL is an investment in the community.

“Ameren is honored to be associated with this fine university,” Baxter tells the 800 people attending the Founders Dinner. “ UMSL’s greatest strength is creating opportunity for diverse students who ultimately find great employment right here in St. Louis.”

UMSL alumni can be found at every major employer is St. Louis – large and small companies, government offices, schools, hospitals and research labs. And Baxter is one of more than 125 UMSL graduates working at Ameren.

“I will be forever grateful to UMSL,” he says. “I was one of those students you see today racing from campus in their car after class to get to work, and like many of them will be, I was the first in my family to graduate from college.

“My story is not unique – not for this university. I turned to UMSL for a world-class education at an affordable price. UMSL is making a difference in the lives of so many individuals and the community as a whole. It really is a Gateway for Greatness.”

Bob Samples

Bob Samples

Bob Samples is associate vice chancellor for university communications at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
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