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COLUMBIA – The University of Missouri hit a major fundraising milestone, announcing Wednesday it reached the $1 billion mark.

The endowment has grown by more than $400 million since the start of the Missouri: Our Time to Lead campaign.

The university is the seventh SEC university to reach this mark.

Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said this mark helps the university show they are doing all they can for those invested in it.

“It demonstrates that people really care about this institution and understand that we’re doing the right things for our faculty and for our students and for the community,” Cartwright said.

Members of the community and key donors spoke about the importance of the endowment.

Mark Wilkins, the managing director for The Wilkins Group, said the endowment and the university helped him achieve all of his goals.

“The university, not just the endowment, but the university in general, helped me to dream bigger than I’d ever dreamed up,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins said the endowment is important to all the university supports.

“The endowment supports the university and again, it supports the students, it supports the faculty, it supports the entire mission and it’s critical,” he said. “And now I’m thrilled to be able to small things- I’m not going to solve world peace- but I’m thrilled to small things, my part at least, to give back.”

One way Wilkins is giving back is by opening up a scholarship fund in the place of Georgeanne Porter, who was the director of admissions at the university when Wilkins was a student.

“She was more than a staff member at the university. She became like a family member, truly like a surrogate mother or a older sister to me.”

Porter died recently and Wilkins, along with other members of the community, wanted to uphold her legacy.

“I wanted to do something, along with other people in Columbia, to honor her,” Wilkins said. “Honor her service to the university and really just honor her impact on the world one human being at a time.”

MU is the 37th of more than 1,600 public higher education institutions to reach this $1 billion mark.