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Proudly Cincinnati section

University of Cincinnati students raising 1 billion pennies to transform the future, make a mark in history

One of the most encouraging outgrowths of the University of Cincinnati's Proudly Cincinnati campaign has been the extraordinary generosity of university students. Traditionally, senior classes have set the standard in giving, raising funds for senior-related activities and a variety of campus improvements, including, more recently, a historical marker outside McMicken Hall. The class of 2010 voted to raise funds for the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex and assorted "go-green" initiatives like the recycling program.

Driven to impact the university on a much larger scale, students are now focused on doing more than simply raising money. They are focused on change -- lots of it. One billion pennies' worth, to be exact.

Proudly Pennies is a student-led fundraising initiative to raise one billion pennies, which translates to $10 million by 2013. Efforts will involve all of UC's nearly 40,000 students, as well as alumni, parents, members of the community, corporations and foundations.

Achieving success in Proudly Pennies will put UC students in an exclusive group, as there is no record of college students ever raising such an extraordinary sum of money. The endeavor is a fitting complement to Proudly Cincinnati, the university's ambitious billion-dollar campaign, which will put UC in a select group of public universities that have successfully completed such campaigns.

Proudly Pennies grew from the desire to increase awareness and student participation in Proudly Cincinnati. Reaching the goal will also help students understand why private donations are critical to UC's future, as they see firsthand what their generosity can make possible.

Student body president Tim Lolli, Bus '10,  and his colleagues understand the impact of private support because of their role in student government. They see Proudly Pennies as an opportunity to support the broader campaign while tapping into the energy evident on campus.

"The response to Proudly Pennies has been phenomenal," Lolli says. "There has been a growing sense of pride around campus the past few years due to record enrollment, UC's new president Gregory Williams and the accomplishments of the football team, among many other UC successes. I get the sense that UC students are eager to be more involved on campus, and Proudly Pennies presents the perfect opportunity."

The announcement of Proudly Pennies at the UC Board of Trustees meeting in January 2010 was met with enthusiastic support from across campus. UC trustee and Proudly Cincinnati campaign co-chair Buck Niehoff, JD '72, pledged one million pennies to get the campaign off to a strong start, and trustee Thomas Humes Jr., Bus '71, MS (A&S) '77, presented Lolli and his colleagues with a jar filled with 7,000 pennies. Such fanfare continued all day.

"To see university leaders come in with jars and coffee cans full of pennies was something I'll never forget," Lolli says. "It was an amazing show of support and helped all of us feel more confident about what we are doing for UC."

Students have echoed this enthusiasm as well, with more than 100 volunteers coming forward to serve the campaign through various committees. And students who are not part of the official leadership are finding creative ways to carry the campaign closer to its goal.

How much is a billion?

In April 2010, for example, the Student Ambassador Group at the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services held a bake sale to benefit Proudly Pennies. Dean Lawrence Johnson helped the students find resources for the sale and pledged to match their sales up to $500. Plus, students at the College-Conservatory of Music have held competitions between departments to encourage donations.

"When we raise a substantial portion of the Proudly Pennies goal, students will work with President Williams to identify priorities the money can be invested in, things that will benefit the academic mission of the institution and improve the student experience," Lolli says. "They will be able to see what their gifts mean to UC and what they are making possible for future generations. In time, they'll have a much better understanding about what their gifts can do and why they should continue supporting their university as alumni."

How much is a billion?
To put this effort into perspective, one billion pennies equals the following:

89.7 acres of land, about the size of four professional football fields

2,755 tons, roughly the same as 212 Savanna elephants (largest land animal in the world) or 177,774 bearcats

963 miles high, equivalent to stacking Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) on top of itself 3,504 times

11,837 miles long when laid flat, about half the length of the Earth's equator (24,901 miles)

nearly one penny per person in China

3.2 pennies for every American

Other fun penny facts

More than two-thirds of all coins produced by the U.S. mint are pennies.

The U.S. Mint produces more than 13 billion pennies annually.

Since its beginning, the U.S. Mint has produced more than 288.7 billion pennies.

Lined up edge to edge, these pennies would circle the earth 137 times.

Proudly Pennies also seeks to influence student perceptions about the importance of donating even when they can only afford a small gift. Because the vast majority of gifts will be pennies, the principle of collective giving should remain in the minds of students as they become alumni. This can lead to more alumni donations down the road while motivating the next generation of students to continue the momentum generated by Proudly Pennies.

Understanding the importance of private support is an important lesson to learn over time. But right now, students are learning a different, yet equally significant, lesson: It's not the challenges we face in life that define us. It's our response to them.

And the response from students across the university to this unprecedented challenge gives all of us reason to be Proudly Cincinnati.

Help UC students achieve their goal by supporting Proudly Pennies. Make your gift online, at any college dean's office and at university events and functions. Every penny puts students closer to their goal and energizes their efforts. Donations will continue to be tallied until the Proudly Cincinnati campaign concludes in 2013. Thank you for helping our students achieve another first at the University of Cincinnati.

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