I spoke at the the CASE Advancement Summit in Chicago earlier this month, and I also sat in on a variety of presentations. I recorded a few things to share on Alumni Futures. If you were at the conference and had a different interpretation or recollection of what I've written about here, please add your thoughts via Comment on the Alumni Futures site. Or perhaps you heard something noteworthy that you want to share - please do so.
- From a public university alumni director at a breakfast roundtable: "We cut out several class reunions and those classes' reunion giving did not change." The implication is that reunions don't increase those classes' gifts. But could there be a secondary (positive) effect of those alumni getting together, that will not be reflected in that year's totals?
- CASE President John Lippincott during a discussion of China's economy:
"Beijing has more millionaires than New York and London. But their charitable giving is one-fortieth that of their American counterparts'."
- Kenyon College President Georgia Nugent:
"I'm sick of the over-use of the word "accountability." How about "responsibility"? Is anyone held "accountable" for a success?"
She described the current hunger for holding higher education leaders "accountable" as being "third-party [and] fear-induced."
- Alan Merten, President of George Mason University quoted Raymond "Chip" Mason (of Legg Mason) on ethics. Mason likened some questionable practices to standing so close to the line on a tennis court when serving, that some chalk gets on your shoes:
"You don't want to get chalk on your shoes. You are technically on the correct side of the line, but if you're close enough to get chalk on your shoes, you're too close."
- Ohio State's prodigal Chancellor E. Gordon Gee said, "You have to be passionate about the institution, not just a hired gun who can do this for anyone." I found this ironic, coming from the person who describes himself as someone "who has been the president of more colleges and universities than anyone else," and who announced his departure from Vanderbilt the day after making these statements.
- Merten again, with a winter sports metaphor this time: "If you don't fall down when you're skiing, you need to try a tougher hill." This implies that we should always be learning and that we should find new challenges - hard ones - and tackle them until they're not hard enough to make us fail. Then repeat the process.
- Finally, when asked, "What's the best idea you've had as president?" Merten replied:
"The best thing that I did was that I got out to meet alumni. Someone said that your university can be good without the support of its alumni, but it cannot be great without the support of its alumni."
Profound truth? Or empty platitude? What's your take?