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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee has passed the $50 million mark in private giving for the first time, UT President Joe Johnson said Saturday.

UT received a total of $55,838,440 in private gifts for the fiscal year that ended in June. Last year’s total was $46.4 million.

Also, a record 52,075 alumni and friends made gifts of $13,547,000 to UT’s Annual Giving Program. UT leads the South in the number of donors, Johnson said.

“These dollars will go to deserving students for scholarships and to support the work of our outstanding faculty, but they represent much more than just money,” Johnson said. “They demonstrate the great support UT alumni and friends have for their university.”

The figures show about 22 percent of UT’s 225,000 alumni made contributions last year. The national average for alumni gifts to public universities is 17 percent, Johnson said.

“We have made scholarships a top priority, and we are seeing great returns on the dollars that help students finance their education,” UT-Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder said. “Our entering classes are the best ever, and part of the credit must go to those who provide us with scholarship funds to attract outstanding students.”

Gifts to the Annual Giving Program were up $2.1 million from 1994-95. Deferred giving from wills and trusts grew $4 million for a total of $12.4 million.

UT is in the third year of its 21st Century Campaign and has received approximately $270 million in gifts and pledges. Johnson said only dollars actually received, not those pledged, are counted in the yearly totals. For example, only $100,000 of a $1 million gift to be paid over 10 years would be in the current total, he said.

UT officials say a major fund drive like the 21st Century Campaign helps raise the yearly gift total long after the drive itself is completed. UT’s endowment now stands at $390 million.

“The pledges we are receiving during the campaign will be paid over the years raising the annual totals. Students and faculty will reap the benefits from the excellent work our alumni leaders and Development Council are doing in the 21st Century Campaign,” Johnson said.

Giving by UT staff and faculty increased significantly, Johnson said. Payroll deductions nearly doubled — rising from $481,000 to $868,440 over the two-year period.

The average gift to the Annual Giving Program was up 13 percent to $260, Jeannie Hastings, volunteer chairperson of the Annual Giving Program, said.

Dwight Kessel, chairman of the UT Development Council, reported that $16.7 million came from corporations and in corporate matching gifts. Last year’s corporate total was $14.7 million.

In addition to the 52,000 donors to the Annual Giving Program, the university received 3,589 other gifts in the corporate, deferred, foundation and large gifts categories. Foundation ($3.9 million) and special gifts ($9.3 million) accounted for an additional $13.2 million.

A breakdown of the gifts by campus and units shows:

* Agricultural Institute $2,699,685.

* UT-Chattanooga $3,912,510.

* UT-Knoxville $33,516,418.

* UT-Martin $2,202,292.

* UT-Medical Center Knoxville $2,430,647.

* UT-Memphis $9,585,246.

* Institute for Public Service $552,569.

* UT Space Institute $290,756.

* Unrestricted $1,060,937.

Contacts: Dr. Joe Johnson (423-974-2241), John Sheridan (423-974-2115)