The number of charitable contributions to UC Santa Barbara reached an all-time high last year, resulting in over $40 million in donations.

The Campaign for UCSB received $40.6 million dollars of support in 2009, representing donations from the largest group of contributes in its history. Since its inception in the year 2000, the campaign has generated a total of $544 million, exceeding the original campaign goal of $500 million. As a result, UCSB’s endowment has grown to $154 million — a $79 million increase.

These private gifts provide salaries for 57 new endowed professorships and also fund 139 graduate fellowships.

According to Gary Greinke, associate vice chancellor of development and executive director of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, this year’s donation total surpassed that of any previous year, exceeding a conservative estimate made in light of the country’s current economic troubles.

“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,” Greinke said. “This generosity helped sustain the campus and reflects the strong loyalty to our mission by alumni, parents and friends.”

Launched in 2000, The Campaign is an initiative dedicated to providing alumni and other interested parties a means to invest in UCSB’s future. The Campaign is administered by an elected committee of volunteers; UCSB alumni and actor Michael Douglas holds the position of honorary chairman.

In a press release, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said private gifts are essential to the university’s continued excellence, and expressed great gratitude for those who continue giving in the face of a lackluster economy.

“UC Santa Barbara’s accomplishments are strengthened immeasurably by philanthropic gifts,” 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.”

Among the notable donors was Emmy Award-winning television producer Marcy Carsey, the parent of two UCSB graduates, who has donated $1 million to support public programming at the Pollock Theater and help launch UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center for Film Television and Media.

Corporate and foundation contributions amounted to $26 million, including a $2.4 million gift from the Rainbow Optoelectronics Material Shanghai Company to establish a partnership with UCSB’s Solid State Lighting and Energy Center.