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The Penn alumni family is significantly more generous than it was when University President Judith Rodin first took office.

More than twice as generous, in fact.

Donations -- which just barely failed to crack $200 million in 1993 -- will amount to $407 million at the end of 2003, according to University statistics, the apex of a steady upward trend.

So how did Rodin do it?

"I think she's superb at" fundraising, said Penn alumnus and President of the Penn Club of Northern California Phil Crosby. "She's very professional at what she does, and she's very dynamic."

University clubs are often useful vehicles and venues for fundraising -- the Penn Club in Manhattan even features its own development office on-site -- and Crosby said that Rodin has personally utilized his organization to keep West Coast alumni in the loop.

"Judith Rodin came herself... a year ago," Crosby said, noting that her visit made the Californians feel that "'Hey, the University's concerned about us and wants to be involved.' People really respond to that."

Crosby said that the University's alumni development effort has been noticeably invigorated and strengthened over the past 10 years.

Notable gifts over the past nine years have included Wharton alumnus Jon Huntsman's $40 million in the spring of 1998 -- then the largest contribution ever given to an American business school -- which went toward the building of Jon Huntsman Hall, as well as Law School alumnus Henry Silverman's $15 million -- then the largest gift ever given to an American law school -- in the winter of 1998, which refurbished what is now the school's Silverman Hall.

The development office has "more resources and more bureaucratic weight," Crosby said. "And they use that extra muscle to bring in new staff... and even to hold regular events, even though we're 3,000 miles from Philadelphia."

In the summer of 2002, the University lost its top fundraising official -- former Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Virginia Clark -- to the Smithsonian Institute, and has yet to secure a replacement. However, with Rodin and other administrators hawking Penn's strategic plan around the country, donations haven't subsided.

Recalling Rodin and Provost Robert Barchi's visit last spring, Crosby was struck by the professionalism and efficiency of the administrators' trip out west.

"She and Bob Barchi put on their little road show," Crosby said, adding that presentations were followed by small, intimate group meetings, a large forum attended by hundreds and a dinner.

"It struck me as a very organized, very smart way to do things," Crosby said. "It was kind of political to be honest.

"She came, she had an agenda, people to meet -- it was very effective."

Rodin's personality and background enhance the effort as well, according to Crosby.

"Because she's the first woman president, she immediately gave Penn something special," Crosby said. "Along with being a Penn alumna herself, the fact is that she's just very charismatic."

Council for Advancement and Support of Education spokeswoman Joye Mercer Barksdale -- whose organization gives Chief Executive Leadership Awards annually to university presidents and independent school headmasters who "are viewed as outstanding in their ability to promote and support their institutions" -- said that the speeches, dinners and handshakes aren't the half of it. Inspiring trust and respect counts for a lot.

"To the extent that Judith Rodin has been a successful fundraiser and spokeswoman for Penn, and she has been widely regarded as such, it is because she has built solid relationships with Penn's various constituencies -- alumni, business leaders, trustees, etcetera -- and works hard to cultivate those relationships and keep them strong," Barksdale said.

It's not enough only to perform on the road, however.

Noting that Penn "certainly has a very meritorious track record in fundraising," the California Institute of Technology's Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Gary Dicovitsky said that a successful fundraiser must be someone "who truly can bridge the multiple commitments that this requires, because the president cannot abandon the internal requirements of the institution."

Keeping a finger on the pulse of the university and spending enough time around campus to understand its mission is also part of the job.

"It's that balancing act, knowing where to be at the right time," Dicovitsky said. "Sometimes you see [presidents] say 'I'm going to be an external person, and this person's going to be internal.' It's terrific for a short period of time, but you can never really do just one or the other."

Barksdale concurred.

"Sure, it's important that the president accompany the development officer on major fundraising calls," Barksdale said. "But well beyond that... I think the presidents who are most successful at fundraising are those who truly understand their institutions, respect their institutions' history."

"They have to have vision for their campuses, and it has to be a vision that is pretty widely shared and accepted," she added.

If you don't understand your own university, Dicovitsky said, you can't differentiate your own message from the tens of pitches potential donors get in the mail every day.

"Sometimes it all sounds the same" to target donors, he said. "It's our job to express... and relay just what does distinguish how we're approaching things."

Recent donors have included the Walter Annenberg Foundation, the Philadelphia Health Care Trust and Penn alumni Peter Skirkanich, Charles Williams and George Weiss.

Barksdale stressed the importance of character and trust in fundraising.

"It's... important to remember that all of the advancement functions, including development, are based on cultivating and maintaining sound relationships. People give to people -- and they give to people they believe they can trust."

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