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Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Dorice Galbraith, whose daughter, Jen, was one of four UVSC students who drowned in a Provo cave a year and a half ago, hugs Ira Fulton after a party celebrating his effort Thursday that raised $500,000 in pledges toward making the school a university.

OREM — Millionaire Ira Fulton announced a challenge to Utah legislators Thursday — give $10 million to the proposed Utah Valley University, and he'll spearhead an effort to match it.

Fulton got started Thursday morning. From 7:30 to 11 a.m., he raised $500,000 in pledges, which he'll match with $500,000 of his own money. That's $1 million, or 10 percent of the $10 million goal he promised.

"I'm not going to forget you," Fulton told about 1,000 students and faculty at a celebration for another fund-raiser on Thursday. "I want to get this university status going real fast."

The fund-raiser for which the 75-year-old Fulton, faculty and staff celebrated on Thursday began in the spring of last year and ended Dec. 31. Fulton matched $512,750 in donations from students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Money from the fund-raiser will be used for scholarships, athletics and deans' discretionary funds.

Dance students performed for Fulton. Students and professors retold stories about how they raised money — such as one employee who baked bread, sold it to members of her department and donated the proceeds. They presented Fulton with a UVSC letterman's jacket, a scrapbook and flowers.

Fulton — an Arizona native who made his fortune in retail stores and housing development — plans to institute another similar fund-raising effort for students, faculty, staff and alumni after this legislative session ends.

But until now and Feb. 28, when the Legislature adjourns, Fulton is focusing on raising $10 million for university status.

UVSC President Bill Sederburg said he believes most donations will be large. He said, however, the logistics had not been hammered out.

"We're still in the planning stages," Sederburg said. "We've talked to our larger donors and I think there's enthusiasm."

Fulton is optimistic: "We're going to do it," he said.

"We'll turn down no checks," he added.

It's going to take a lot of hard work, said Val Hale, vice president for institutional advancement and marketing at UVSC.

Fulton has never before addressed the Utah Legislature, and UVSC will help Fulton gauge when the timing is right for him to appear, in consultation with legislators, Hale said.

"I'll ask them to match my $10 million," Fulton said about the remarks he will make to legislators. "Yes, I think that is fair."

BusinessWeek estimated that Fulton and his wife, Mary Lou Fulton, have given away $265 million, or 60 percent of their net worth. He's donated to Arizona State University, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah.

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