The University of Utah celebrated a giant step in its five-year fund drive Friday, while at the same time honoring a financial giant who is a distinguished U. alumnus.

President Chase N. Peterson announced that the U. has raised $115 million of its $150 million goal in a fund-raising effort that it bills as the largest in Utah history.The announcement came at the luncheon for chairmen of the fund-raising committee. Peterson also honored J. Willard Marriott Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of the Marriott Corp., Washington, D.C., and general chairman of the U. fund-raising campaign.

Marriott was given a Centennial Alumnus Award from the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the association published a book containing 10 distinguished alumni from its 175 member universities. The association also selected an alumnus to represent each institution as a centennial alumnus.

Peterson referred to Marriott as one of the stars who has offered the U. support, money and courage as the school pushes toward a dawn of better financial days in higher education. "I feel strongly that the dawn is coming for the entire university. The power of this university is growing steadily," he said.

In reporting the $115 million milestone, Peterson said, "We are not raising money as much as we're raising support for important people and important projects at this great university."

He said the U. hasn't raised enough money, and it never will. The U.'s fund-raising campaign went public last May when it had already raised $87 million, although the effort began in 1985. It continues to 1990.

The current emphasis on soliciting donations is among the faculty and staff. Contributions may be designated to any segment of the university, although a corporation has agreed to match every $1 donated to the Marriott Library.

"Higher education is the only way America, as a society, can remain competitive. It is the only way that the state of Utah, if it has economic problems, can overcome them," Peterson said.

Marriott graduated from the U. in 1954 with a bachelor of arts degree in finance. He received an honorary doctorate from the U. in 1986 when he was the commencement speaker.

Among others who also received the association award were President Jimmy Carter, Georgia Institute of Technology; J. William Fulbright, University of Arkansas; Supreme Court Justice Byron White, University of Colorado; Hubert Humphrey, University of Minnesota; Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, Oregon State University; and comedian Bill Cosby, Temple University.