A letter from Greg Willems

Greetings from Manhattan and the KSU Foundation team!

I hope everyone enjoyed a festive and safe July and that you’re escaping the heat we’ve experienced in early August! My wife Christina, our daughters and I enjoyed our first Fourth of July in Kansas. Over the last four years, we had enjoyed what we thought was a pretty impressive fireworks display in Waikiki, Hawaii. This year, we witnessed one of the most impressive fireworks displays we have ever seen. The City of Wamego absolutely set the bar at a whole new level. It’s exciting for us to still be experiencing new firsts at our stage of life and especially in our new home community and region. We are truly enjoying living in Kansas!

There was even more to celebrate in early July, as the KSU Foundation finished up our fiscal year 2015. There were a number of notable achievements, starting with this past year being the third largest fundraising year in the history of K-State and the KSU Foundation. Some years back there was a focused effort to re-organize some aspects of how the KSU Foundation serves K-State. The goal was to reposition the foundation to address a significantly increasing need for resources to support the K-State 2025 vision and close the comparative resource gap between K-State and peer institutions. This effort has been a success and is validated through the KSU Foundation maintaining a three-year fundraising average in excess of $167 million.

On July 9 and 10, the KSU Foundation convened as a team in a Strategic Advance Session to strengthen our organizational culture, focus on our core strategic objectives and secure unified commitment to these objectives as we move forward. We were fortunate to enlist the facilitation services of Ron Alexander, who did a wonderful job guiding us through a process to explore these topics and create lasting impressions for all of us to reflect on. Through our Strategic Advance Session, we started the process to “hit the reset button” on our organization, which will allow us to move forward with focused planning and action that will meet the increasing needs of K-State. I was impressed with the level of engagement of our staff, their creativity and passion for what they do, and most of all, their commitment to challenge themselves to contribute at ever-increasing levels to meet our mission.

I can’t say enough about our KSU Foundation Board of Directors. Our board met on June 25 and 26 to continue providing outstanding vision, expertise and guidance as we build a stronger foundation to serve K-State. Their wisdom and ability to work on multiple dimensions continues to help guide the growth and impact of our organization. We appreciate their work with us to approve our FY16 budget and annual improvement plans that will focus our staff’s work for the next fiscal year. On a more somber note, Provost April Mason shared a presentation and discussion during our meeting. It is clear that the way the legislative session played out has negatively impacted morale for many of the students, staff and faculty at K-State. It will require some focused interaction with these groups to strengthen their optimism and demonstrate appreciation for their value as outstanding contributors to the success of K-State. The KSU Foundation will be working with the university to explore ways we can help with this healing process and reinforce our unwavering belief that K-State’s valuable staff, faculty and leadership are all always ESSENTIAL!

We have enjoyed a wave of media coverage over the past two months, which is creating a positive buzz around many of our strategic activities. In addition to coverage of our fiscal year 2015 accomplishments and early coverage on our campaign launch in October, the Manhattan Mercury did a story on our new KSU Office Park and the first building that is being erected at 1800 Kimball. This was a great opportunity to inform the community about the jobs and corporate partners that are going to locate in Manhattan. We are thankful that the Mercury took the time to tour the facility with us and learn more about the vision to elevate the prosperity of our entire community. We are fortunate to have the cooperation of campus leadership in this effort, as well as leadership within our own organization to execute this vision. Greg Lohrentz, our senior vice president and CFO, has done an excellent job of crafting these real estate projects and building consensus with all of our local and regional partners.

President Schulz and I have been traveling quite a lot lately. On July 28, we embarked on three days of visits with outstanding K-State alumni and friends in Oklahoma and capped each of these days off with 1863 Circle events. Each individual we met with had a unique story and experience at K-State that shaped their lives. We were honored by their hospitality and willingness to share these private sentiments about how special K-State is to them. We are truly fortunate to have their friendship and commitment to help advance K-State.

We were also happy to welcome Matthew White in July as our associate vice president for constituent development and are thrilled with the experience and record of success that he brings. Matt will work closely with the deans and development staff on a daily basis to strengthen our mutual commitment to outstanding development work and make sure that we have communication and relationship growth that serves our mutual objectives. I hope you all will take the opportunity to meet Matt and his family in the near future as you come back to campus.

Thank you for all you do for K-State, and I look forward to sharing more in September!

Greg Willems

President and CEO
KSU Foundation

P.S. To stay current on KSU Foundation news, including posts on my activities, I encourage you to follow the KSU Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

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