Building private support for faculty among development officer's goals

June 2012 By

After nearly two decades of success in the pharmaceutical sales industry, Kevin Gardner found himself wanting a career change. As fate would have it, the University of Mississippi was in search of a development officer for the School of Engineering. The alumnus applied for the job, was hired and the rest - as they say - is history.

The Jackson native worked for such companies as Pharmacia & Upjohn, Hoffmann-La Roche and Johnson & Johnson. His communication skills complement his efforts to build relationships with alumni and friends, and match their interests and passions with university needs.

"My role involves sharing accomplishments achieved by the School of Engineering and describing the school's vision for the future," Gardner said. "Personal visits with alumni and friends help build interest, involvement and financial support for the school. Emails, letter campaigns and our annual Ole Miss Engineer magazine help our messaging as well."A major part of the school's vision is to ensure the longevity of exceptional teaching for current Ole Miss students and future generations, and achieving that goal will require endowed faculty positions. When a donor or donors commit the financial resources to fund a named position, the funds are held permanently, with the annual income directed to the faculty position.

In light of the stiff competition among leading universities for gifted faculty members, UM has made building private support for faculty a top priority.

"Securing full funding of the Anderson Chair of Chemical Engineering, for example, represents a high priority to properly pay tribute to Dr. Frank Anderson's tremendous contributions to the engineering school, the university and the engineering profession," Gardner said. "We would also like to see faculty positions named for alumni or organizations. Additionally, pursuing corporate involvement and partnerships with the engineering school will strengthen graduate placement and increase financial support."

Gardner is also working to establish the Woods Society, a giving program to encourage annual donations to be used exclusively to enhance the student experience.

"The Woods Society will help grow a base of donors - many of whom may be making their first gift to the engineering school - and these additional resources will help expand student enrichment activities."

Gardner holds a bachelor's degree in marketing from the UM School of Business Administration. He is married to the former Jill Johnson, and they have three children, including an Ole Miss sophomore.

To learn more about providing support to the UM School of Engineering, visit umfoundation.com, or contact Kevin Gardner at 662-915-7601 or kevin@olemiss.edu.