Q & A with Judith Jobbitt, V.P. for University Development and Alumni Affairs

Posted: December 11, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This weekly question-and-answer column with George Mason administrators appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette. To view previous articles, visit the Q&A archive page.

Judith Jobbitt
Judith Jobbitt
Photo by Evan Cantwell

You have the joint title of president of the George Mason University Foundation and vice president for University Development and Alumni Affairs. How do these divisions relate to one another?

These divisions share the same overriding mission: to develop relationships with friends–be they alumni, faculty, staff, volunteers, university boards or others–who in turn can provide critical private resources for the university to advance its goals. The Office of University Development coordinates and makes gift solicitations, which range from one-on-one contacts with prospects to the mass mailings and phonathons of the Annual Fund. The Office of Alumni Affairs is the official link between the university and its alumni and oversees the activities of the George Mason Alumni Association as it seeks to energize our alumni involvement through various programs, services, and publications. The George Mason Foundation is a type of service bureau for both of these offices. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) private corporation with the exclusive purpose to process and manage private resources for the benefit of the university. The Board of Trustees, a self-perpetuating board of 48 volunteers, runs the foundation, and I serve as its president. In addition to managing and processing gifts, the foundation provides a banking service to facilitate property development for university projects. The foundation also maintains data on our alumni and donors as well as offers research services for development.

Tell me about The Campaign for George Mason University and where it stands.

The Campaign for George Mason University is the first-ever university-wide fundraising effort, which was publicly launched in April 2002 with a goal to raise a minimum of $110 million by June 30, 2005. We are very excited about its progress and expect to reach at least $108 million by the end of December-far ahead of the schedule set. This is a credit to the volunteer leadership, president, provost, deans, faculty, staff, and alumni. It’s taken hundreds of dedicated colleagues and volunteers to raise these campaign dollars, but let me specifically recognize our campaign chair, Sid Dewberry–who is both a visitor and trustee–and the architect of the campaign, David Cooper, associate vice president and campaign director.

How is the money raised being used?

We have added over $15 million to our endowment base. These gifts have primarily been directed to student scholarship or to faculty and center funds, like the Center for History and New Media effort that created a $2 million endowment. Just recently we received a $1 million bequest from Daphonal Bell to create a student scholarship endowment. About half of the funds raised have been for current expenditure as directed by the donor. This includes nearly $15 million from the Charles G. Koch Foundation in support of the Mercatus Center and of other faculty recruitment including Nobel laureate Vernon C. Smith. The Lynch family Point of View property gifts to ICAR count for about $8 million of the total, and another $4 million has been received in various equipment and software. We also have $16 million that will be received in future years from deferred gifts and pledge payments. These gifts are again for core purposes of the university related to students and faculty.

With the campaign so close to its goal, what will happen between now and June 2005?

The university Board of Visitors and foundation Board of Trustees recently voted to “go full bore” through June 30 of 2005 to reach the maximum support we can within this campaign and use this campaign’s momentum to launch new fundraising initiatives. Just this past year, we concentrated our attention on alumni leadership support with more than 290 alumni committing more than $1 million in gifts from $1,000 to $50,000. This year we’re asking all alumni to “catch the campaign spirit” and significantly increase the number of alumni donating to their alma mater at every gift level.

Besides the financial gains, what are the indirect benefits of the campaign?

Perhaps even more important than the mega gifts and dollars raised has been the opportunity to focus on the vision and aspirations of George Mason University. Through campaign publications and events, the vision of George Mason has been voiced and advanced both within and beyond our academic community. Other “beyond the dollars” benefits have been the increased involvement and engagement of our alumni, faculty, and staff in the life of this university.

How have the down markets impacted the campaign and the endowment?

Fortunately, the markets have been turning around in more recent months and, even during the worst months, our friends continued to step forward with major pledges and gifts to the university. The impact was perhaps felt most in our gift expectations from the high tech community, which was the most severely hit. The budget challenges of the university also created a shift from an emphasis on endowment, where returns are not realized for many years, to a focus on significant current use gifts. As to the endowment, the down market drained off the reserves and capital gains achieved during the boom years of the late nineties. But with the recent rebound and new gift dollars, we are close to an endowment value of about $35 million.

The foundation has helped finance a number of real estate projects for the university over the years. Tell me about the current projects.

Going up as we speak is Housing VI on the Fairfax Campus. The foundation was asked to serve as a banking partner for the university to help fast-track student housing, a critical need as we attract more students who want the on-campus experience. We also hope to break ground soon on the GMUF-Arlington project. The foundation, at the university’s request, purchased land contiguous to the Arlington Campus to help the university meet its parking agreement with Arlington County. To subsidize the expense of over 500 dedicated university parking spaces, the foundation will be building over the parking decks a 190,000-square-foot office building with 13,000 square feet of retail space. We expect the university may be using up to three floors of this building and, after the debt is paid off, the building and property will be transferred to the university.

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