by Editorial Director David Hampton
Tell us about yourself and why you chose to come to Jackson State.
I came to Jackson State because of the leadership change Dr. Carolyn Meyers was putting together. I’d worked with Dr. Meyers at North Carolina A&T State University and consulted with her over the years. I’ve been very impressed with every aspect of her leadership skills and style. Prior to my arrival, I was executive director of advancement at the Savannah College of Art and Design and its campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, France and Hong Kong. I’m president and CEO of D.W. Hoard and associates, a development consulting firm that concentrates on fundraising and endowment enhancing. At North Carolina A&T, I directed a $100 million campaign. I’ve served in similar fundraising capacities and North Carolina Central University and the State System for Higher Education in Pennsylvania.
What have been your impressions?
I think I was like everyone else who comes to Mississippi with preconceived notions. I’ve found most of the negative things I’d heard about just don’t exist. There are so many positives. I’ve found many great areas in Jackson in particular. I love the Fondren area, Belhaven and West Jackson. I just think Mississippi needs a strong marketing program. I knew about Jackson State’s strong reputation before I even thought about coming here. In fact, at North Carolina A&T, the only school we really considered our competition was Jackson State. Now that I’m here, Jackson State has exceeded my expectations.
What are your goals?
That’s very easy. I wake up every day thinking of past, current and future donors. What are the best ways to retain our donors and find new ones? How are we marketing all of the successes and wonderful stories of Jackson State? We have publicly said our goals this year are to raise $5 million and raise alumni giving by 5 percent. My teams in the past have been successful in raising the alumni giving percentages. At North Carolina A&T, we went from 5 percent to 16 percent in four years.
At this time there is no major campaign in the works. We are trying to raise money for the president’s inauguration on March 30, so no state funds will be utilized. The alumni have set a goal of surpassing $1 million in gifts for the first time in the university’s history. At Dr. Meyers’ inauguration, the alumni will present a check to the university.
How important is private fundraising to the university?
There are only a few revenue sources for any university: tuition, auxiliary services, endowment and private giving. We can’t raise tuition to cover cuts in state appropriations all the time, so private giving must be successful and increase dramatically. Private giving will also drive the growth of the endowment.
Any success stories?
Carlton Brown, the developer of Jackson’s Old Capitol Green project, recently made a pledge of $2 million to the university. That is one of the largest gifts ever for Jackson State. Also, I think it is wonderful that President Meyers made a personal gift of $10,000 at the start of the semester. That really set the tone for the year. Not many presidents take the lead like that.
What is the most important project for which you would like to see private funds?
Scholarships are the No. 1 need, not only for the super stars, but assistance must be given to those in the middle as well. We have a sizable number of students who don’t complete their studies because they owe a relatively small amount of tuition. A fund to assist them would be wonderful.
What experiences have influenced you?
Playing football in high school really helped influence who I am today. I was not that good of a football player, but I noticed during the offensive lineman drills, the coach would always call the first person in line to either demonstrate the right way or the wrong way to do the drill. So I figured I would always be first in line. That way, I’d always get to do it right or I’d have the coach use me as an example to teach me how to do it right. It worked perfectly because when it was time to do the starting lineup, my name was always called. That taught me to always try to be first or close to first. You miss out on a lot if you’re not. Another lesson I’ve learned is to be a great listener. People will always tell everything about themselves, which is critical for any fundraiser. You have to listen and that is very difficult for a lot of people.
You were involved in a project recreating the Underground Railroad. What was that like?
I led a student project at Oberlin College, my alma mater, where we recreated a group slave escape walking 420 miles during the month of January in 1980. We were dressed as slaves and slept in corn cribs. There were nine students in our group. Seven walked, one was a videographer and another acted as an advance person going ahead 30 miles to find a barn for us to sleep in and give us decent directions about how to get there. That whole experience changed my life. That was the first time I wrote a grant and received funding. I worked closely with various staff at the college who were helpful, but ultimately most of the responsibility of the project fell on me. I had my 15 minutes of fame at a young age. Three reporters were with us most of the trip. After the experience, I was flown to be on Good Morning America. After the show, I went home to Philadelphia, Pa. While shopping in the grocery store with my mother, four or five people recognized me from the morning’s show. My mother was beaming!
What do you see for the future of HBCUs?
Some HBCUs will eventually close. Some predominantly white institutions will close. But Jackson State’s future is strong. Enrollment is increasing. The infrastructure is in place. We have strong faculty and staff. The fundraising component is in place. No one ever questions the future of Catholic universities or women’s colleges or Jewish universities. But everyone questions the future of HBCUs. Why? They are an easy target. There is an assumption of inferiority. But in reality, the hardest teaching and learning takes place at HBCUs. The faculty, staff and students have a lot to prove.
Anything to add?
I love being in Jackson, which says a lot. This time last year, I was preparing for a trip to Paris or Hong Kong. Never would I have thought I would have been in Mississippi. But listening to Dr. Meyers outline her vision for creating the kind of team and environment where we can all be the best made me want to come here. That is so exciting. Who doesn’t want to work in that kind of environment? I like being the best. I want Jackson State to be No. 1.