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Gov. Ralph Northam (center) and Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands thank Heywood Fralin (far left) for his family’s $50 million gift to the university last December.

Virginia Tech received $181.9 million in donations and commitments in the last fiscal year — a record for the university.

More than 32,000 donors contributed to the university, which outpaced the previous record for gifts and commitments of $162.3 million during fiscal year 2016-17.

“Our alumni, friends, faculty, staff, parents and students have shown how much they value Virginia Tech and are committed to its future,” university President Tim Sands said in a news release.

“We are profoundly grateful for their record-setting generosity. With their support, we can change communities, the commonwealth, and the world through research and education.”

Of the donations, Tech received $120.3 million in cash, which is also a record.

The record-smashing figures include the largest donation in the university’s history: a $50 million gift from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust and Heywood and Cynthia Fralin.

That donation was designed to attract top scientists and hasten the growth of Tech’s Roanoke medical research center, which was renamed the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in the family’s honor after the gift.

Tech also touted multimillion-dollar gifts including $2 million from the Merryman family for Tech athletics and the Pamplin College of Business as well as $3 million from Boeing in support of the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program.

But though those large gifts were important, the backbone to fundraising success were smaller gifts and annual commitments from many donors, university spokeswoman Tracy Vosburgh said.

Vosburgh, who works in the advancement office that focuses on fundraising, said that work over the past several years laid a foundation for the record year.

“Bottom line is it’s all about creating a culture of philanthropy,” she said. “You don’t get a year like this year without building your story over time.”

She credited her staff with telling the school’s story in an interesting way and ultimately alumni engaging with that storytelling to the record year.

The record year will lay a solid foundation for fundraising in the near future, as the school gears up for a major capital campaign.

The school has lofty goals for fundraising. Sands has said he wants the university’s endowment to reach $1.6 billion by 2022. On Thursday, the endowment was about $1.36 billion.

“It’s validating that this is the direction we’re going,” she said of the past year.

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