November 7, 2012

Alumni Affairs Sees Promotions After Leaders Leave C.U.

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Two top leaders in Cornell’s Alumni Affairs and Development division will leave the University this month, prompting a flurry of rapid promotions within the department, according to Charles Phlegar, vice president of the department.

Chris Marshall, senior vice president for alumni affairs, and Patricia Watson ’83, senior vice president of alumni affairs, will depart for other job offers this month, leading to the addition of three new members to the senior leadership team. Jon Denison, Claude Johnson and Jeremy Weaver will join a team of five other top department staffers by Nov. 15.

Marshall will leave to assume a vice presidency position at consulting firm Grenzebach, Glier and Associates. For Marshall, his decision to leave what he called his “dream job” at Cornell was prompted by the needs of his family.

After four and a half years of driving several hours back and forth each weekend to visit his children from a previous marriage, Marshall said he decided that “it was time to put family first” and to “consolidate” his personal life.

Watson will depart for Brown University, where she will be senior vice president for university advancement beginning Dec. 1. Watson said she will work closely with Brown’s president and administration to “raise private support for academic priorities and to engage Brown’s alumni and parents throughout the world.”

Watson, who studied design and environmental analysis at Cornell, spent two decades after graduation working as a professional dancer, choreographer and instructor. She later earned her masters in public administration from Syracuse Uni­versity before returning to work at Cornell in 2004.

Of her work at the University, Watson said hiring and promoting staff within the department was one of her “most meaningful and important responsibilities.” Over her eight years working at Cornell, Watson hired or promoted nearly 70 people who will work with the Cornell staff to “carry the program forward,” she said.

Marshall, too, cited hiring nearly 40 people and getting to know hundreds more during his time at the University.

According to Phlegar, Watson’s and Marshall’s adept hiring have created a succession plan to ease the loss of the two senior leaders.

“As much as I hate to see Pat and Chris leave, I truly believe our new structure makes us stronger immediately,” Phlegar said.

Marshall added that Phlegar “has done a masterful job of moving the puzzle pieces around” to make up for the double loss.

The three department staff members newly promoted to the senior leadership team expressed enthusiasm over their promotions and eagerness to begin work this month.

Denison, who will join the senior leadership team as associate vice president for colleges and units, said he is excited to continue working with “a gifted development staff, as evidenced by the record-setting year ending June 30.” In part due to the generosity of alumni donors, Cornell had its best fundraising year on record, raising $777.8 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year, compared to $308.2 million in 2010-11, Phlegar told The Sun last month.

As the new associate vice president for alumni affairs and development for the Northeast corridor, Johnson said he hopes that his vision to “build strong cohesive Cornell communities throughout the northeastern part of the United States … will come to fruition.”

Weaver, the new associate vice president for major gifts, said he will work to “continue to build upon the already strong foundation of donors to the University” by identifying and cultivating the “next generation of philanthropic leaders.”

Weaver added that he believes Phlegar’s decision to fill the vacancies left by Marshall and Watson with existing members of the Alumni Affairs and Development division demonstrates a trust in the department’s staff.

“That all of the moves came from within the organization shows the breadth of our team,” he said.

Despite their excitement for their new jobs — and their pride in seeing staffers in the Cornell department move up the ranks — both Marshall and Watson said their decision to leave the University was a difficult one.

“I leave many wonderful friends that I rely on day to day — and a place that I have lived since 1976,” Watson said. “Yet, as I have encouraged others to steer their careers and to be open to opportunities, I am following my own advice by joining [the administration at] Brown.”

Marshall said he too will miss the relationships he has built in his time at Cornell. But, he added, “it’s not a goodbye … it’s a change.”

Original Author: Nikki Lee