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Spirit Campaign raises $324M for UND

GRAND FORKS -- Life is good at the University of North Dakota. So good, in fact, that more than 38,000 people raised more than $324 million as part of the North Dakota Spirit Campaign.

The final tally was announced at a pep-rally like event Friday afternoon.

"We've waited eight years for this," UND President Bob Kelley said as students flipped placards bearing each of the nine numbers raised by students, alumni and the administration.

The original fundraising goal was $300 million.

Money raised in the campaign is indicative of the overall increase in contributions to the school. The numbers, provided by UND spokesman Peter Johnson, are simply staggering. Yearly scholarships have gone from $2 million to $5 million, the school has seen a 50 percent increase in endowment funds, and, from 2005 to this year, annual support to UND grew from $5.8 million to $15 million.

All well-deserved for a school and campus that guest speaker Bert Jacobs praised as "beautiful."

"I wish I were a freshman all over again," he said.

Bert and his brother, John, run Life is good Inc., a clothing company that has branched out to a three-word brand with products sold worldwide.

He spoke to the crowd of alumni and students gathered in the Chester Fritz Auditorium on campus.

Jacobs touched on the early days -- selling T-shirts out of the back of a van at college towns on the East Coast. He mentioned the breakthrough, when his brother first sketched "Jake," a smiling stick figure who would become the company's mascot. And he brought it home when he told the crowd of the letters the company began receiving from children who identified with the brand's positive message.

Life is good, in its own campaign, has raised more than $10 million for children affected by violence, poverty and deadly diseases like cancer.

"Because we focused on what's right with the world, we have fun and that's why this works," Jacobs said. "We're not smart enough to have built this business; our consumers built this business with us because we were authentic about wanting to help children."

Kelley and UND, in their display of charity, brought out an enormous check, of the lottery-winning variety. The gift -- $5,000 to a student group chosen randomly by a student -- came at the end of the event.

In addition, five $1,000 scholarships were handed out to students.

Linda Pancratz, one of the campaign's chairpersons, echoed the thoughts of many of the alumni who made the record-breaking amount possible. "I was motivated to give back to the university that gave so much to me."