The University of Pennsylvania exceeded its fundraising goal by almost a billion dollars, bringing in $4.3 billion in its "Making History Campaign," officials announced Thursday.

Penn surpassed the $3.5 billion target, announced in 2007, 16 months before the official end of the campaign in December. That's especially noteworthy considering the campaign was launched just before the country plunged into a recession.

The university has used the funds to increase financial aid, support research and interdisciplinary programming and boost its endowment. About $1.9 billion was targeted for Penn's $6.8 billion endowment.

Penn President Amy Gutmann began preparing for the campaign shortly after her arrival in 2004 and has drawn praise for her fundraising ability - a major job prerequisite for a college president.

"The impact of the Making History Campaign on increasing educational access, integrating knowledge across disciplines, and putting that knowledge to good work in the world has been nothing short of transformational," Gutmann said in a prepare statement. "The overwhelming response we received is a testament to the strength and confidence of our community. People participated because Penn's work resonates with them and what they are passionate about."

The university announced the results of the campaign to the Penn community Thursday evening.

Nearly 327,000 donors contributed, the university said. The largest single gift came in 2011 from Raymond G. and the late Ruth Perelman, who gave $225 million to name the Perelman School of Medicine.

Cumulatively, the biggest donor was the late Leonore C. Annenberg, who through the Annenberg Foundation, gave more than $286 million, which was used to fund communication, research and educational outreach programs and endowed professorships, according to the university.

Donors contributed $652 million to financial aid for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Penn has more than doubled its financial-aid budget over the last eight years, allocating $181 million for undergraduates this year. Under Gutmann, the university started its no-loan policy, meeting students' financial need with grants rather than add to their debt burden.

Nearly half of Penn undergraduates receive aid, a 10 percentage point increase over the last seven years, the university said.

Another $573 million is going toward faculty, director, coach and curator positions. The donations allowed the university to add 161 endowed faculty positions. Twenty-two professors are part of the "Penn Integrates Knowledge" program, in which the university hired prominent professors who have joint appointments in two fields - designed to integrate learning and teaching across disciplines.

The university also used funds to upgrade and add buildings and green space to the 279-acre campus.

New buildings include the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, the Smilow Center for Translational Research, the law school's Golkin Hall, the Vernon and Shirley Hill Pavilion with research space for the veterinary school, a new building for the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, which will open later this year. The campaign targeted $753 million for new buildings.

Other new buildings in the works that will include campaign funds are the Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building and the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics.

Campaign funds also allowed the university to transform an ugly, 24-acre asphalt parking area into Penn Park, athletic and recreational grounds.

In addition, Penn used funds to strengthen its local and global partnerships. The university earlier this month announced plans to upgrade a center in Beijing and open a "world house" on campus.

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