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The University of Tennessee has officially launched its ambitious $1 billion fundraising campaign to enhance programs of excellence at all of the university’s campuses and institutes.

The Campaign for Tennessee — the most ambitious effort in the university’s 214-year history — places UT among the ranks of the nation’s largest public and private institutions that have sought this level of private support.

Current, former and retired employees have contributed more than $48.7 million through the Family Campaign held in 2007. The effort involved gifts and pledges from more than 11,000 people. Employee giving has increased with participation rates of between 26 percent and 54 percent at UT’s campuses and units.

Accompanied by Board of Trustees Vice Chair Andrea Loughry, UT President John Petersen announced at a gathering of more than 200 campaign volunteers held last Thursday at Pratt Pavilion that $704,007,696 has been raised.