Third advancement finalist visits Idaho, focuses on networking
Mary Kay McFadden never thought an internship with the University of Idaho Office of Alumni Relations her junior year of college would determine the course of her life.
“The internship was really my first introduction to what university advancement is,” McFadden said. “I didn’t even know you could make a career of staying at a college campus and promoting a university and being engaged with alumni — I thought ‘Man, I really discovered something here.'”
McFadden is the third of four finalists to visit campus to make her pitch for UI’s vice president of University Advancement. She is currently vice president of Development, Family and Alumni Relations for Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.
McFadden, a UI alumna, spoke at an open forum Monday in the Borah Theater and said it brought back memories of attending Greek events and hosting Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival events as a student.
During the open forum, she described her development experience and answered questions from the audience.
McFadden’s career began with nine years of employment at UI — three years working in admissions and six years with the Office of Alumni Relations as an event planner. She said her previous experience at UI as a student and an employee would be instrumental in a vice presidential role.
“I was a road warrior for Idaho — I’m a north Idaho girl,” McFadden said. “To see the impact that the University of Idaho has throughout the state and to learn that it’s a network that’s in every corner … The passion is there for me.”
After being recruited to Washington State University, McFadden hopped the Moscow-Pullman border and spent 12 years in university development at WSU.
McFadden said while she enjoyed her time at WSU, she saw a greater challenge at her next post, vice president of Seattle University.
In her position at SeattleU, McFadden said she oversaw a $170 million campaign — relatable to UI’s $261 million Inspiring Futures campaign, which she noted as a major success for the university.
McFadden said at the conclusion of the SeattleU capital campaign, her team “took the foot off the gas.” She said she learned from this and would work to keep momentum at UI following the Inspiring Futures campaign by emphasizing stewardship.
“You are what you celebrate,” she said. “Celebrating the generosity and support or our alumni leads to further generosity.”
McFadden stayed at SeattleU for 14 years before moving to Massachusetts and getting a job at Olin College, which is only a few years old. She said her development work there includes broadening the school’s fundraising base because there are so few alumni to reach out to.
“I’ve had to be creative,” she said. “Finding prospects outside of the alumni base by looking for those who have a strong interest in engineering, or in higher education in general.”
McFadden said she would bring her skills to build relationships with non-alumni to Idaho, where she plans to work closely with regional foundations and corporations to secure gifts and continued interest in student success.
McFadden said she would look toward UI’s upper administrators for direction on which campaigns to prioritize, although she believes everyone — from students to college deans –have a role to play in building UI’s future.
“I believe fundraising is everyone’s business,” she said. “We work as a partnership. If the priority is enrollment, then we’re all enrollment officers — we work together.”
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