UNI alum gives $1 million to Dome renovation

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  • The above rendering shows a possible vision for the finished product of the UNI-Dome renovations. The project will include wider concourses, a new indoor track and greater accessibility. The project, part of the Our Tomorrow campaign, has raised over $10.7 million out of its $50 million goal.

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Former football player gives back as Our Tomorrow campaign nears $200 million mark

In early December, 2022, Brad Baumler found a way to give back to a place he called home not that long ago.

Baumler, who graduated from UNI in 1993, donated $1 million toward renovations to the UNI-Dome. The extensive project calls for a total of $50 million in donations to make it possible.

His history with UNI is what he himself calls “extensive.” Baumler was recruited to play football for the Panthers right out of high school, but the influence of his family and UNI’s degree options sealed the deal for him.

“My mother was a pretty big influence on my decision to go to UNI, just because my brothers went there, and even though I had some other opportunities to play football at some of the other schools in the state, that was the one that she was influencing me toward,” he said.

He certainly didn’t regret his decision. After a successful college football career, Baumler graduated from UNI double-majoring in business and construction management. Today, he is the proud owner of his own construction business in central Iowa, Concrete Technologies, Inc. 

When it comes to talking about his donation, Baumler said that it truly was a case of the right time and the right circumstances.

“With the degrees I’ve earned, what I’ve learned from football and just the whole package coming out of UNI, I just thought it was the right thing to do and the timing was good,” he said.

Aside from wanting to give back to his alma mater, the Dome renovation project also spoke specifically to what Baumler wants to see for the future of UNI.

“The athletic landscape has changed a lot in the last several years, and now is the time that UNI needs it. I want to see them try to be as competitive as possible,” he said.

“In my several trips back here in the last several years, it has just become more and more evident that the Dome, even though it’s a phenomenal facility and still is today, needs a facelift. It’s at that point in time where it just needs some support,” Baumler said.

Over $10.7 million of the Dome renovation project has been funded so far, which amounts to about 20% of the $50 million goal. Some project highlights will include new seating and suites, wider concourses, new lighting and sound systems, a new indoor track and greater accessibility.

Fundraising for the UNI-Dome renovations is part of the Our Tomorrow campaign, which has a goal of $250 million by 2026. The fundraising period began in 2018, and the money will be used to enhance the campaign’s four pillars: Student Access and Success, Engaged Learning, Academic Programs and Faculty and Iconic Places.

So far the Our Tomorrow campaign has completed over 78% of the fundraising goal, having received $195.8 million from donors.

“We are 57% of the way through the campaign time period. So we started in 2018, and the goal is to end in 2026 or whenever we meet our dollar goal,” Hillery Oberle said, assistant vice president for strategy communications in University Advancement.

As Oberle explained, a fundraising campaign relies on both large gifts from donors like Baumler and high participation rates. The campaign has a goal of reaching 30,000 unique donors, and it has currently received donations from over 25,000 different donors.

“Whenever I talk about that [number], it really warms my heart. It’s a point of pride because I always think about, okay, that’s more than 25,000 votes of confidence about UNI and what we’re doing here and supporting our students,” Oberle said.

Aside from connecting with a wide audience of alumni and friends of the university, donations come in a variety of different forms. Currently, 25% of the donations to the Our Tomorrow campaign have been “planned gifts,” meaning the money has been written to UNI in an individual’s estate. Those donations are still counted in the total money raised, although the money will not be readily available until the individual passes away.

Many donations also take the form of endowment funds, in which the donated money is invested by the university, and the interest earned is then used to fund specific scholarships or programs.

Other donations come in the form of pledges made over a period of years or upfront donations that are available immediately.

“One big thing to understand is just where are all those dollars going and to know that it’s not only for short term benefit to the campus community, but also for the longer term stability and viability of campus,” Oberle said.

While the Our Tomorrow campaign still has ground to cover before reaching their fundraising goal, UNI students have already begun to see the effects of the donations around campus.

The new $43.9 million Applied Engineering Building broke ground in June, 2022, which was partly funded by donors as part of the campaign. 

In addition, fundraising for the $14.9 million Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center renovation is over 85% complete. The project is expected to break ground this spring, with the new seating in the Great Hall to be installed this summer. 

Another major capital project is the $2.2 million renovation to the Campanile and Campanile Plaza. It is currently expected that the new and refurbished bells will be returned to the Campanile in early May, with further renovations of the surrounding area to take place in the coming years.

As far as benefiting students on an individual level, over 1,900 students received scholarships from private sources in 2022, with the dollar amount totaling $6.6 million. An additional $10 million was delegated to directly supporting campus services, such as study abroad funds, undergraduate research, and bringing guest speakers and support staff.

So far, 365 new scholarship funds and 210 new endowment funds have been created in the Our Tomorrow campaign.

Amidst all of the moving parts of a $250 million campaign, connecting with donors like Baumler brings Oberle fulfillment.

“One of the things that is a real joy in the work that the [UNI] Foundation does is that we get to work with those donors, and when you get to hear them talk about how much this institution means to them and why they’re making a gift, we’re the ones who get to hear that,” she said.

“We can do big things like this because of the passion that people have for this institution. When you’re part of the Panther family, you have a lot of dedicated individuals that really step up and are helping us make this a success.”

More information about donating to the Our Tomorrow campaign can be found at ourtomorrow.uni.edu.