Education

Columbus State's top fundraiser leaving amid $100M capital campaign

Columbus State University's top fundraiser is leaving amid its campaign to raise more than $100 million. But with the goal already two-thirds achieved, CSU officials insist the remaining team will continue the strong start.

Meanwhile, CSU is expanding the administration by adding a full-time legal counsel and possibly a chief diversity and inclusion officer.

Alan Medders' last day as CSU's vice president for university advancement will be Jan. 29. He will become president of Myers McRae Executive Search and Consulting, the Macon firm that helped CSU hire him in March 2012 from the University of North Alabama, where he had a similar job.

Spence Sealy, CSU's associate vice president for development, will assume Medders' duties during the national search for his replacement.

CSU already has raised approximately $70 million in the "First Choice Comprehensive Campaign," university spokesman John Lester told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email. The campaign was announced 10 months ago and is designed to raise at least $100 million by 2019 to "cement CSU's status as a favored destination for top students and faculty," according to the March 2015 news release. Since then, CSU has boosted the campaign's goal to $106.15 million.

"We don't expect any adverse impact on our fundraising efforts," Lester said of the void Medders will leave. "Since our campaign is driven by such strong volunteers, and because its goals were developed around academic priorities on campus, we expect our needs to resonate with any donor who is considering our efforts to improve this community through Columbus State University."

In a phone interview, CSU president Chris Markwood said Medders' leaving is "sad for us, but we've very happy for him, and we hope that, down the road, we will have the opportunity to work with him again" in his new job with the search firm.

Markwood said he spoke with the trustees involved in the campaign, and they agreed to "redouble their commitment to making this a reality. The campaign is bigger than a person, it's bigger than a president, and it's bigger than a director of university advancement."

Markwood praised Medders for helping the university grow its endowment from around $38 million to more than $50 million in about three years. Also under Medders' leadership, the university has set fundraising records the past two fiscal years.

In FY2015, which ended June 30, the CSU Fund collected $5.9 million, an increase of 20 percent over the previous record, the FY2014 total of $4.9 million. And that figure zoomed past the $3.5 million goal. The CSU Fund helps support scholarships and programs throughout the university.

"So he's given tremendous service to the institution and personally to me," Markwood said of Medders. "He's been a real help these first seven months, introducing me to trustees and supporters and donors and connecting me with alumni."

Markwood succeeded the retired Tim Mescon on June 1 after serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

"Most importantly," Markwood said of Medders, "he's really led a transition of professionalizing and expanding the responsibility for fundraising to the deans of each college to connect to alumni and reach out to donors."

Such bench strength is another reason CSU officials are confident in the campaign while they search for its new chief fundraiser.

"The relationships donors have with us aren't just with Alan," Markwood said. "They're also with the programs and deans and department heads they care about. Those commitments and relationships will still exist."

Medders, who began working at CSU in July 2012, said in a phone interview that he wasn't looking to leave - and nobody at CSU asked him to -- but he couldn't pass up this "opportunity of a lifetime" when Myers McRae contacted him. The firm specializes in executive searches for higher education institutions.

"I've known them for years," he said of Myers McRae chairman Kirby Godsey and president Emily Parker Myers, who will remain as CEO. "I kidded them that I would do it in my retirement. They said, 'Why not come do it now?'"

If the CSU capital campaign weren't going so well, Medders said, he would have hesitated to leave now, but he echoed Markwood's confidence in the fundraising team's ability succeed without him.

"I don't have any concerns about the campaign," he said. "The leadership, the campaign cabinet, the foundation board, they're a tremendous group. They keep things moving. The great thing about Columbus State is the tremendous amount of volunteer support and philanthropic support for the university. When the players leave and move, the constant is the passion for the institution. You want to be a relationship facilitator, not a relationship broker, so you're not the only person who can get that gift."

Medders plans to still be one of the university's donors and volunteers.

"I hope to remain connected to CSU," he said.

Markwood intends to find Medders' replacement by the start of the fall semester. Meanwhile, he hopes to hire two more administrators in new positions.

Jaimie DeLoach, a former assistant city attorney for Columbus, worked as CSU's part-time legal counsel since 2011 before she died in September. Markwood believes it's time for the university to make it a full-time position.

"We've grown enough," he said, "and the issues are complicated enough."

CSU already is advertising the job opening, Markwood said, and he expects to hire the full-time legal counsel by the end of the semester.

As for adding a chief diversity and inclusion officer to his executive leadership team, Markwood is speaking with campus groups about the idea. He has asked CSU's human resources executive director Laurie Jones and vice president for student affairs Gina Sheeks to research best practices for such a position in the University System of Georgia. He would like to decide this semester whether to add it, and he is leaning toward yes.

"It is increasingly common on university campuses," he said. " I think we could benefit."

Adding those positions would make his leadership team even stronger, Markwood said.

"I'm very pleased with the team that we have," he said. " We work really well together. It's a situation I'm really privileged to have walked into."

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

CSU FIRST CHOICE COMPREHENSIVE CAMPAIGN SUMMARY OF PRIORITIES

College of the Arts

Bo Bartlett Center: $9 million

RiverPark Library: $2 million

CSU Fund (annual support for scholarships, performances, student travel, emerging needs, etc.): $2 million

Turner College of Business

Center for Commerce & Technology addition: $8 million

School of Accountancy: $2.5 million

Professorships (TSYS School of Computer Science, Cyber Security Program): $2 million

CSU Fund (annual support for scholarships, Business Plan Competition, student travel, research, emerging needs, etc.): $2 million

Endowed student scholarships (TSYS School of Computer Science, Cyber Security Program): $1.25 million

College of Education and Health Professions

New building in downtown (former Ledger-Enquirer site): $25 million

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher preparation: $3 million

Professorships: $2.5 million

CSU Fund (annual support for scholarships, student travel and research, Math Collaborative, emerging needs, etc.): $2.5 million

Endowed student scholarships: $1.25 million

College of Letters and Sciences

STEM solutions: $3 million

Professorships: $2.5 million

Student research and learning lab corridor in Lenoir Hall: $2 million

CSU Fund (annual support for scholarships, student travel and research, STEM Camp, emerging needs, etc.): $2 million

Endowed student scholarships: $1.25 million

Honors College

Educational Activity Endowment: $8 million

Endowed student scholarships: $6 million

CSU Fund (annual support for scholarships, Tower Day, student research, international travel, etc.): $1 million

Athletics

Tennis complex at Cooper Creek Park (CSU portion): $3 million

Athletic Performance Center: $2.25 million

Key Golf Studio and Golf Center: $2 million

Baseball stadium renovation: $1.15 million

Cougar Club (annual support for scholarships, travel, individual sports, equipment, etc.): $500,000

Institutional priorities

Servant Leadership Program: $5 million

CSU Fund (annual support for opportunities for distinction, technology enhancements, operational needs, infrastructure, training, conference participation, student travel, etc.): $3.5 million

Total: $106.15 million

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