The Campaign for UC Santa Barbara so far has generated $544 million in private giving for priority projects and initiatives to ensure UCSB’s excellence for future generations.

Of that total, UCSB received $40.6 million in gifts and pledges from alumni, parents and friends in 2008-09 for teaching, research and innovative academic programs. Amid the global economic downturn, contributions to the campus were down sharply from the record $81.4 million of the previous year. However, the funds raised exceeded earlier projections. The campus received 17,525 gifts, a substantial increase over 2007-08.

“UC Santa Barbara’s accomplishments are strengthened immeasurably by philanthropic gifts,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said. “We are sincerely grateful to our devoted alumni, parents, friends and supporters for their steadfast generosity and inspirational commitment to the future excellence of the campus, especially in these challenging times.”

UCSB’s endowment — now estimated at more than $154 million — has grown $79 million since the Campaign for UC Santa Barbara began in 2000. A total of 57 new endowed professorships have been established to advance teaching and research, and 139 new fellowships have been created to attract and support outstanding graduate students.

“UC Santa Barbara received 1,100 more gifts this year than in our prior record year in spite of the significant downturn in the global economy,” said Gary Greinke, associate vice chancellor for development. “This generosity helped sustain the campus and reflects the strong loyalty to our mission by alumni, parents and friends.”

During 2008-09, philanthropic gifts and grants to UCSB for instruction, student support, research and academic programs totaled more than $33 million and were distributed across the disciplines.

Emmy Award-winning TV producer Marcy Carsey, a parent of two UCSB graduates and a trustee of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, made an additional $1 million gift for programming at the Pollock Theater in the Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television and New Media, which is named for her. Carsey is an honorary alumna of the campus.

Three endowed chairs were established by UCSB alumni last year with gifts totaling nearly $2.4 million. They are the Susan F. Gurley Chair in Theoretical Biology in the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Glen and Susanne Culler Chair in Computer Science, and the Doluca Family Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Corporate and foundation support for the campus amounted to more than $26 million. Among the largest gifts were $2.4 million from the Rainbow Optoelectronics Material Shanghai Company to become an industrial partner with the Solid State Lighting and Energy Center, and $2.2 million from the J. E. & Lillian Byrne Tipton Foundation for the Sedgwick Reserve. Sedgwick is part of the University of California’s Natural Reserve System.

In addition, the Hellman Family Foundation made a $1 million gift to renew and expand its support of research by promising assistant professors across the disciplines who “show capacity for great distinction.” The Hellman Fellows program was established in 2008 with a $250,000 gift from the foundation.

The Foundation for Research and Development in the Middle East also made a $1 million gift for research at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies focusing on climate change threats to human security and democracy.

Unrestricted gifts, which help create exceptional educational opportunities for students, amounted to nearly $1.8 million.