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James Shea

University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea announced the first phase of the Vision 2030 Capital Campaign has been met with more than $100 million gifted to the university.

The University of Mary has taken a big leap toward its Vision 2030 strategic plan goal. In October 2015 the university announced its effort to raise $272 million by 2030. It laid out an ambitious plan to develop new facilities and programs.

There were three phases to the plan, with a goal of raising $96 million during the first phase. In less than four years the school topped the goal by nearly $5 million. That’s quite an achievement and university officials were justifiably proud Tuesday to announce the fundraising results.

Jerome Richter, the university's vice president for public affairs, said the school has received more than 7,500 donations, ranging from $5 to more than $10 million. U-Mary wasn’t just raising money, as it completed a number of projects including a 276-bed residence for women, a fieldhouse and wellness center, the Lumen Vitae University Center, and began construction of a School of Engineering.

At the same time the university was growing enrollment. Last year the school had to create a waitlist for incoming students and will do the same this year. Fall 2018 enrollment was 2,180 students; in 2017 it was 2,018; in 2016 it was 1,983; and in 2015 it was 1,931 students.

The university has come a long way since it opened in 1959 as Mary College. It now has students from 47 states and 42 countries, while students from North Dakota still make up 40 percent of the student body. There are even campuses in Arizona and Rome.

One of the impressive aspects of the fund campaign was shortly after announcing Vision 2030 the state saw oil prices take a nosedive. A source of revenue seemed to becoming a dry well. The university, obviously, didn’t panic as it topped its goals.

"It was a bold thing that we set out to do," Monsignor James Shea, president of the university, told a press conference on Tuesday. It was bold and appears destined for success.

Next on the list of projects will be completion of the School of Engineering and the move of the university's School of Health Sciences program to the lower level of the engineering school.

In 2015 after Vision 2030 was announced the Tribune editorialized that “Their success will be our success.” That’s still true. As the university grows and works to meet the needs of Bismarck-Mandan and the state, everyone benefits. The engineering school should help North Dakota meet its need for engineers. The nursing program at U-Mary does the same.

The university plays a vital role in our community and Vision 2030 promises a bright future.

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