December 08, 2016
Guin Robinson and Tim Parker December 8, 2016 | Amy Bickers

Major gifts, like the brightest blooms, often attract the most buzz, but the process of raising $1 billion doesn’t happen without donors at all levels digging in to give what they can to the programs and causes that inspire them.

Thousands of donors helped till the fertile soil in which The Campaign for UAB is planted, and thousands more are quietly cultivating the growth of the most ambitious campaign in the University’s history. Gifts of all amounts are behind the sure and steady progress of the Campaign – which began on October 1, 2008, with a silent phase, and which launched publicly on October 24, 2013 – a life cycle through seasons of sun and rain.

It’s a cycle that takes thousands of people giving gifts of all amounts that reached $756,368,935 by the end of November 2016.


Mike Braden didn’t know it at the time, but he was the first donor of more than 91,350 who have contributed to The Campaign for UAB. His $50 gift to the School of Engineering on October 1, 2008, was a symbol of his continued fondness for his time as a UAB student from 1972 to 1976.

“At that time I was young and had no savings,” Braden said. “I needed to attend a school that offered an evening program that allowed me to work. It was very strenuous to work full-time and go to school at night for four years. It puts a strain on an individual, but I have only fond memories of UAB.”

While still a student, Braden started working for Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company (PDM), and ended up working for the company for 27 years. When PDM’s assets were sold to other companies, Braden spent another five years working for those companies. He’s now “80 percent retired,” he said.

“I appreciate what UAB did for me -- the doors that were opened by my degree,” said Braden, who lives in Crestwood, Ky., with his wife, Annie. “The skills I acquired there opened the door to the organization that I worked for most of my career.”

And so on October 1, 2008, when he answered a call from a student from UAB Annual Giving, Braden said yes, and became the first donor to The Campaign for UAB. “Now that I can afford to give to the institutions I like, it’s appropriate to give to the one that was meaningful to my career,” he said.

On June 24, UAB graduate Tina Isabella took a call from a UAB student and said “yes” to a gift of $100. And that “yes” put The Campaign for UAB over the $700 million mark.

Isabella was among 10,108 individuals and organizations making gifts in the month of June 2016.

Isabella, who lives in Birmingham and works in Anniston, has given to UAB consistently since she received her bachelor’s degree in physical therapy in 1976, followed by a master’s degree in 1981.

“My UAB education led me to a career,” she said. “I’ve worked in home health. I had my own small physical therapy business. I had a contract with Cooper Green Hospital for 8 ½ half years. I’ve done a variety of things within my field. This is my 40th year since I received my masters, and I’m still working full-time.”

Isabella has directed most of her gifts to the Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Health Professions, along with steady support for WBHM. “Every year, one of the students from the Physical Therapy program calls me during a phonathon,” she said. “It makes a difference to me that it’s a student who calls.”

When Isabella enrolled at UAB, she was a bit older than traditional students, and she describes herself as “not anywhere near a straight-A kind of student.” But she had a goal, and she achieved it with the help of faculty mentors who believed in her. “I felt like UAB changed my whole life,” she said. “I love UAB -- it was a life changer.”

Vulcan Materials Company is the longest consecutive giver to UAB, with a giving history that stretches back 48 years. The company is UAB’s largest provider of matching gifts: Its matching gifts program donates two dollars for every dollar an employee donates to an educational institution such as UAB.

Headquartered in Birmingham, Vulcan Materials Company is the nation's largest producer of construction aggregates and a major producer of asphalt and ready-mixed concrete. Its philanthropic arm, the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation, funds scholarships, education partnerships, art and culture programs, health and human services programs, land conservation efforts, and helps establish and maintain certified wildlife habitats.

“Vulcan Materials Company’s matching gifts program helps us invest in communities across the country through employee donations,” says Carol Maxwell, manager of the company’s foundation. “It’s just another way we help build stronger communities."