The University of Arizona Foundation launched the public phase of a $1.5 billion capital campaign on Friday, the most ambitious fundraising push in the institution’s history.

The money raised will support the university endowment and a variety of institutional needs, from faculty, staff and student retention, to building maintenance, said James H. Moore, president of the UA Foundation.

"Quiet" efforts have already been underway on the campaign for more than three years, Moore said, in which more than $800 million has been raised.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart announced the public phase Friday at a ceremony on the Mall capping day-long activities on the campus for alumni and other supporters.

The university raises an average of $153 million a year, Moore said, and under the goal announced Friday, would have to up that to about $160 million in each of the next four years to reach the $1.5 billion goal.

The last capital campaign, which ended in 2005, raised nearly $1.2 billion, exceeding its $1 billion goal by nearly 20 percent.