Considering a 4 percent decrease in endowment over the past year, and anticipation of a major capital campaign over the next decade, the University announced today that Ohio State University Vice President for Development John May will be coming back to the University of Michigan to be Michigan’s development chief, after a 10-year absence.

Jon Schwartz

“I hope to come and hit the ground running,” said May, who is expected to take over Feb. 1, pending approval of the Board of Regents.

President Mary Sue Coleman said she is thrilled about May returning to the University.

“He’s considered one of the top people in the country in fundraising,” Coleman said. “He was described to me as the ‘best of the best.'”

May will replace Cynthia Wilbanks, who has been serving as interim vice president for development since Susan Feagin left Michigan for Columbia University.

The University is expected to begin a new major capital fundraising campaign in the next two years. Money raised from the campaign is planning to go to endowments, construction, scholarships and other priorities in each of the college. The last major campaign that the University ran lasted from 1992 to 1997, and raised $1.4 billion.

“We have a number of new deans that are approaching the priority setting (but) we’re not ready to announce yet what the highest priorities are,” said Wilbanks, adding that May’s biggest challenge will be the campaign.

May said that it will take some time for him to get the campaign’s logistics set up, but he is excited to be part of the new leadership under Coleman, and believes the campaign will pick up quickly.
“I really look forward to being part of that team,” May said. “The University has great momentum and great volunteer leadership.”

At Ohio State, May was responsible for running a seven-year fundraising campaign that raised $1.23 billion for the institution. The money allowed the school to build over a dozen new buildings on campus as well as set up more endowed scholarships and professorships.

“He ran an entire campaign from soup to nuts,” said Rebecca Blank, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Blank chaired the advisory committee which recommended May for the position.

May said most of his job responsibilities focused on academic priorities, although 8 percent of money raised went toward funds not academically related, including the construction of two new athletic centers at Ohio State.

While he is excited to come back to the University, he said there is some difficulty in leaving Ohio State.

“When you’ve been anywhere for 10 years … it’s hard to leave the relationships that you build,” he said.

Ohio State President Karen Holbrook said in a statement that May did an amazing job with fundraising during a time in which state-support of the University shrunk.

“We are extremely fortunate to have had Jerry’s expertise in assembling the kind of professional staff that is required in today’s fund-raising environment,” Holbrook said.

May worked in the University of Michigan development office from 1979 to 1982, rising from senior development officer to director of the Major Gifts Program. He said the biggest projects he worked on were raising funds for the Kresge Business Administration Library and the Business School Executive Residence.

Wilbanks, who is also vice president for government relations, said although she has enjoyed her tenure in the development office, she has recognized that it is not easy to hold two jobs.

“My first love has been the government relations world,” Wilbanks said, adding that she plans to continue in that position under Coleman.

The University has been in a transitional stage for the last year and a half with the departure of President Lee Bollinger, Provost Nancy Cantor, LSA Dean Shirley Neuman and several other executive officers. Coleman said operating without a full and permanent leadership has been difficult for the University, and is thus relieved that another position in the administration is permanently filled.

“I feel that we are in very good shape, for getting these things done permanently,” Coleman said. “I like the people who are here.”

Search processes are still underway for a new executive vice president for medical affairs, currently filled on an interim basis Medical Prof. Lazar Greenfield and a new LSA dean, where history Prof. Terrence McDonald has taken over on a temporary basis.

Last week, Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman announced that he would leave the University next July to become president of Cornell University. No search committee has yet been named to find a replacement.

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