Alumni affairs announces leadership team promotions


Charles Phlegar, Cornell's vice president for alumni affairs and development, has announced a bevy of promotions and leadership changes in his division, bolstering the ranks of his senior leadership team and broadening its scope, following the announced departure of two senior AAD leaders, Patricia Watson and Chris Marshall.

"The departure of two members of our senior leadership in such close proximity, especially people we all value as highly as we do Pat and Chris, is not an occasion for which you can prepare. It does present a unique opportunity to tap the talents of my senior leadership team and promote several members of the staff who are ready to assume greater responsibilities," Phlegar said.

The key promotions and changes in reporting relationships, without replacing the senior associate vice president position, will continue the evolution of a forward-thinking hybrid model and a strategic plan that the division will continue to develop.

The continuing "flattening of our organization takes advantage of the depth of talent we have in the colleges and units, and our volunteer programs and in our alumni Annual Fund programs," Phlegar said.

Between now and Nov. 15, Claude Johnson, Jon Denison and Jeremy Weaver will join AAD's senior leadership team of Jim Mazza '88, Rick Banks, Jeff McCarthy, Jodie Meyers and Sharon Marine.

In alumni affairs, Mazza will continue as a member of the senior leadership team and assume the leadership of engagement programs for alumni, parents and friends as associate vice president for alumni affairs, which will now include both the Cornell Annual Funds and Affinity and Special Project Fundraising. Joe Lyons, as senior director of the Cornell Annual Fund, will report directly to Mazza, as will Anne DiGiacomo, who will move to alumni affairs as senior director for affinity and special project fundraising.

Johnson will join the senior leadership team as associate vice president for alumni affairs and development, Northeast corridor.

Denison, associate dean for external relations in the School of Hotel Administration, will join the senior leadership team as associate vice president for colleges and units. Kristen Ford and the Corporate and Foundation Relations program will move to the college and unit department with the title of assistant vice president, reporting to Denison.

Weaver will be promoted to associate vice president for major gifts and join the senior leadership team. Lindsay Ruth will become assistant vice president for major gifts, reporting to Weaver.

Acknowledging that these are significant changes, Phlegar said that "this is a golden opportunity to let really talented people take a broader leadership role" in the division and allows him to continue implementing and tweaking the division's hybrid model -- one that blends both a central and college-based alumni affairs and development program and its regional operations.

In addition, Phlegar and Tommy Bruce, vice president for university communications, announced that Jennifer Campbell, director of public affairs for university communications, will serve as the new director of communications for alumni affairs and development; she will report jointly to Phlegar and Bruce. Phlegar said Campbell's position is "the natural next step of building on the astounding success of our growing, far-reaching communications model that is a collaborative partnership with university communications -- a model that is unprecedented in higher education."

"I am excited to see this level of commitment to communications at the senior level of alumni affairs and development," Bruce said, "and I am glad to have Jenny on board to help us deliver."


The announced leadership and structural changes in the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development were partially prompted by the announced departure of two senior leaders in alumni affairs and development, both who are leaving Cornell this month.

Last month, Watson '83, senior associate vice president of alumni affairs and development, announced that she would be leaving Cornell to become senior vice president for university advancement at Brown University; and just this week, Phlegar announced that Marshall, associate vice president for alumni affairs, will be leaving Cornell to take a vice president post and consultant position with Grenzebach, Glier and Associates (GG+A).

Marshall stressed that the decision to leave what he called his "dream job" was a difficult one and was made for personal and family reasons.

"It's a personal loss for Cornell and for me," Phlegar said. "Chris is one of the leaders in the business of alumni relations; his wisdom and his leadership is sought out by universities around the country."

Marshall, who lives in Ithaca with his wife, 2-year-old son (and a new baby on the way), came to Cornell in 2008 as associate vice president for alumni affairs from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., where he worked for 19 years. His children from his first marriage still live in Bethlehem, and Marshall wanted to relocate nearer to them.

Marshall said that one of the things he is most proud of is that "we were able to make a strong argument for a needed investment in the alumni affairs program, even in the midst of [the 2008-09] economic crisis." Even as the university and his division were dealing with budget cuts and a shrinking staff, Marshall, with Phlegar's support, reallocated resources to nearly double the alumni affairs program and staff.

Among his other accomplishments at Cornell, Marshall is most proud of building a strong team and the large events they run, like the Trustee-Council Annual Meeting weekend and the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference; the volunteer leadership training program he implemented that is now used for all university volunteers; building affinity programs for communities of like-minded Cornellians; a new emphasis on young alumni programming; Cornell's investment in social media, which has built communities; and a reimagined Homecoming Weekend for all Cornellians to celebrate Cornell. He also helped implement the hybrid model of alumni affairs and development that sees the integration of those efforts as "one organic and holistic piece of the same operation, not two separate entities."

Marshall, whose last day at Cornell is Nov. 16, said Phlegar supported his decision fully and helped him connect with GG+A, a firm that works with Cornell. Phlegar "did everything you'd ever want a manager to do," he said. "I was torn between leaving my dream job at Cornell and being able to spend more time with my family, and I've chosen my family this time," Marshall said.

Phlegar said he expects Marshall to stay close to Cornell and that he hopes to draw upon "his wisdom for many years to come."


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Claudia Wheatley