Reserved British Schools Have No Reservations About Soliciting Cash

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Associated Press

Three graduates of Cambridge University in England were among the signers of the American Declaration of Independence, but not one was from Oxford.

Score that Cambridge 3, Oxford 0, says Mark Kaplanoff, an American lecturer in history at Cambridge.

Ancient history, that is, Henry Drucker of Oxford scoffed. “Five current members of the U.S. Senate are Oxford men. Score that 5 to 3 for Oxford.”


Whatever the final score, the 780-year-old rivalry between England’s two premier seats of learning has spilled across the Atlantic. Indeed, it has gone global, and now the contest has been extended to fund raising.

Drucker, a Yankee at Oxford, is not only a booster. He is also the university’s fund raiser. Appointed in 1987, he is the first to hold such a post since the university was founded 800 years ago.

Pitching to Alumni

Cambridge set up a fund-raising office in 1988. Both institutions are a bit low on endowments, so the two queens on Britain’s 45-university chessboard are starting to do what 3,000 American colleges and universities have been doing with vigor for generations: Hit the alumni and any other likely prospects for donations.

All Britain’s universities are reacting to a squeeze under the penny-pinching government of Oxford alumna Margaret Thatcher.

In 1981, Oxford--which traditionally honored the 24 British prime ministers it has produced thus far--expressed academic displeasure with Thatcher by denying her an honorary degree.

Last October, Oxford Vice Chancellor Sir Patrick Neill, complaining that the university lacks the money to fill more than 100 academic vacancies, announced a worldwide campaign to raise the equivalent of $395 million in five years.


Cambridge, in less dire straits, is working on a Cambridge 2000 Plan for the 21st Century.

‘Less Desperate’ Effort

“We are plowing a quieter furrow; our needs are less desperate,” William Squire of Cambridge said in a telephone interview. In 1988, he became Cambridge’s first development director since the year 1200.

“Both universities were encouraged for 60 years to depend on the British government for more than half their funds,” said Stephen Bragg, who heads the Cambridge office of the American Friends of Cambridge University, a group of U.S. alumni who have voluntarily raised $12 million for their alma mater since 1966.

“Under the state-funded regime, both (universities) developed greatly the range of their teaching and research. Cambridge lists the discovery of DNA, the development of radio-astronomy and pioneering work in superconductivity as examples of speculative research which paid off,” Bragg said.

“But he who pays the piper calls the tune,” he added, “and British universities are learning that in allowing government subsidy for teaching and research to rise to more than 50% of their total income, much of their freedom has been lost.”

So the race is on to raise private donations and achieve the sort of independence that comes, for example, from Harvard University’s $4-billion endowment. By comparison, Oxford’s endowment is equivalent to $14.4 million.

Mailing List Lacking

The British universities’ fund-raising techniques turned out to be a little rusty. One of Drucker’s first discoveries at Oxford was that the university did not even have an alumni roster.


Jeanne Sigler of Jeanne Sigler Associates, a New York-based firm specializing in nonprofit fund raising for nonprofit organizations, said: “The alumni (names and addresses) is the lifeblood of the American university. . . . English attitudes have traditionally differed.”

Cambridge did have a worldwide list of names of graduates, including those of its 60 Nobel Prize winners (Oxford’s Nobel score, by the way, is 24), but no addresses.

So, how many Cambridge grads are out there?

“About 100,000 to 120,000,” said Squire, “depending on the mortality tables you use. We will be trying to reach them all.”

With a one-year head start, Drucker, son of a retailer in Rutherford, N. J., is already reaching Oxford alumni with the efficiency of a Yankee trader.

“We now have a mailing list of 120,000 graduates around the globe,” he said. “That’s more listings than the City of Oxford’s phone book. We expect to have 140,000 by 1989, including 8,000 in the United States.”

Cambridge has graduated about 5,000 Americans, who set up the American Friends group.

“We now have similar organizations in Japan, Singapore and other places,” said Squire. “We have students from 91 countries.”


Drucker has two people working for him in the United States. Squire doesn’t have anyone yet. (Columbia University has a fund-raising staff of 150, and Princeton employs 200.)

Both Oxford and Cambridge have successfully tapped international corporations for major donations. At Oxford, Squibb Corp. of the United States has contributed $36 million to set up a pharmacological research laboratory, while Monsanto Corp. and G. D. Searle and Co. are giving $10.8 million for a biological institute.

Cambridge has raised funds from Japan and the United States to back new professorships. U.S.-based SmithKline Beckman Corp. has donated $1.8 million for research on AIDS at Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine.

“For 700 years we successfully raised funds in England,” said Squire, “and after two generations of government subsidies, we are now going back to our roots.”

“But it’s not only money,” he said during a visit to New York that he insisted was not a fund-raising trip. “You have those three Cambridge men who signed the American Declaration of Independence. At this time, exhibits from Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum are beginning a yearlong tour of American cities. It’s a matter of shared heritage and values over the centuries.

“Besides,” he added, “as you know, John Harvard was a Cambridge man.” Chalk up the founder of Harvard University as one more point for Cambridge.


Ancient history again, said Drucker, adding that Oxford “is the alma mater of the scholars who currently head New York University, Georgetown University, the University of Pittsburgh, Mount Holyoke, Pomona and Johns Hopkins.”

Chalk up a few more points for Oxford.