Hard cash: New president to continue Victors for Michigan campaign

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Students prepare Hill Auditorium for the formal announcement of the Victors for Michigan campaign on Nov. 8, 2013. The campaign is the largest fundraising initiative in the history of public higher education. Buy this photo

By Yardain Amron, Daily Staff Reporter
and Claire Bryan, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 24, 2014

When he arrives on campus in July, University President-elect Mark Schlissel will undertake the remainder of the University’s $4 billion Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign — the largest such effort in the history of public higher education.

For the past two months, Jerry May, vice president for development, and his team have been preparing a plan to maintain University President Mary Sue Coleman’s relationships with important donors once Schlissel takes over.

“We have a national plan to take him to different cities and different groups of donors around the country,” May said in an interview Friday morning. “We’ve set this up for a seamless transition from one president to the other.”

Over the next year, May has planned meetings with Schlissel and key donors around the country to ease the presidential transition process.

Though Schlissel has not had immense experience with fundraising in his current position as Brown University provost, May said he has experience from his time as dean of biological sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

When Schlissel takes office, May said the campaign will have already collected roughly $2 billion — about 50 percent of the campaign’s goal.

“The most important thing is that a president has is vision and a willingness to listen,” May said. “Those are the two qualities he is going to do great at as we move ahead.”

At a press conference in the Michigan Union Friday morning, Schlissel said he understands the importance of fundraising at a public institution like the University, and is grateful for his predecessor’s skill with donors.

“To be honest, I’m very privileged because President Coleman has established relationships and a culture where successful alumni feel part of the institution and they want to help,” Schlissel said. “I feel that my job is transferring to them the excitement of our mission and helping figure out how to take the kinds of things they’re interested in and match them to the great things we want to do.”

In his address, Schlissel also praised the University’s commitment to affordability, noting the campaign’s $1 billion goal for student support.

May said Schlissel has already shown he has what it takes to lead the remaining phase of the campaign.

“He is going to come in and listen to them and inspire them and show them things that are important for the rest of this campaign and for this university,” May said. “Like Mary Sue, he has the qualities of being able to listen, he has the qualities of being able to tell a great story, I could just see it today.”