Without private donations, the Medical University of South Carolina couldn’t have lured top scleroderma researcher Carol Feghali-Bostwick to Charleston to set up her lab.

Feghali-Bostwick and her team will begin work Tuesday, largely due to donations from the family and friends of Charleston resident Kitty Trask Holt, who died from scleroderma in 2008.

MUSC leaders recently completed their report on private donations for the 2013 fiscal year, which ended June 30. The school brought in $75.1 million, the fourth-highest amount it has received in a single year, said John Nash, director of communication for the university’s development and alumni affairs office. The school’s best year was 2011, when it raised $82.8 million.

Leigh Manzi, executive director of development, said the $75.1 million includes cash gifts, pledges and a small percentage of in-kind contributions, such as equipment.

The university would struggle to be a strong and healthy institution without such contributions, she said. “A lot of efforts would be significantly hampered.”

MUSC is state-supported, but state money makes up a small percentage of the university’s operating money, she said, with private donations picking up the slack. “They are a stabilizer for the institution.”

Dr. Richard M. Silver, director of the Division of Rheumatology, said he’s grateful for donations from Holt’s family and friends because they have allowed his division to grow.

Jane McCullough, director of development for the Department of Medicine, said Feghali-Bostwick will be what is known as an endowed chair in the university’s Inflammation and Fibrosis Smart State Research Center of Economic Excellence.

Holt’s family and friends raised $1.3 million to help bring in a top scleroderma researcher, and the school was able to leverage that money to bring in another $1.3 million in matching money from the state.

Scleroderma is a chronic connective-tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases.

More than 700 people made donations or pledged money to honor Holt, McCullough said. “Never before have we raised more than $1 million from so many different people.”

Most pledges made to honor Holt have now been received, McCullough said, but some continue to roll in.

Manzi said the endowed-chairs program, which brings in top researchers who contribute to science and to the economic development of the state, are just one of the things for which private donations are essential.

They also help pay for important new buildings and facilities, expand clinical programs and provide scholarships for students, she said.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.