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Speaking to the Boards

Each fall the Board of Governors, Foundation Board of Directors and Alumni Association Board of Directors, meet for a strategic retreat. The goal is to share information, understand the challenges facing our Alma Mater, and generate ideas to move WVU forward. As we begin a new year and a new decade, I thought I’d share with you my remarks to the three boards.

Happy New Year!

Sean, ‘89


Remarks at Tri-Board Strategic Retreat

Sean M. Frisbee, WVU Alumni Association President & CEO

7 Nov 19


First of all, let me say thank you.

Every board member in this room is a volunteer and chose to spend your most valuable asset—your time—with us helping to determine how to position West Virginia University for future success.

Thank you for your time; thank you for your leadership.

Volunteerism and service are the centerpiece of our operations at the alumni association. Our paid alumni operations staff may only number 7, but we supplement that with more than 250 volunteer alumni leaders who provide boots-on-the-ground leadership for more than 100 chapters and interest groups across the nation and around the globe.

It’s through this network of alumni volunteers that we’ve found many of our most committed supporters.

Long before I returned to WVU, Steve Douglas fostered a Mountaineer spirit of service and volunteerism that resulted in the engagement of many prominent alumni including some of you who are sitting in this room this evening.

Let’s take Wayne and Kathy Richards as an example. Where is Wayne? Can I use you as an example, Wayne?

When did Wayne and Kathy really ramp up their engagement with WVU? It was when Billy and Christie McCartney were leading the Lone Star Chapter in Houston and they pulled Wayne and Kathy in.

How about Billy and Christie? When did they ramp up their engagement? It was when Nancy and Jed Dipaolo were leading the Lone Star Chapter and they pulled them in.

When did Nancy and Jed really get involved? Well, I can tell you Steve played a major role just as he did when he “found” Ken Kendrick, Dave Alverez, Rick Pill and many others with us tonight.

For 146 years, your Alumni Association has been finding and connecting alumni to each other and to the institution. It’s through the alumni association that many of our most prominent graduates began serving, engaging, and donating to the University.

We share the belief that for West Virginia University to reach its full potential, we must have a strong and effective alumni association and foundation.

It’s through the alumni association that we will find and engage our alumni regardless of their affinity or their ability to write a check. We’ll connect them to other alumni and the university in a manner they desire most, and we’ll continue that engagement throughout their life.

We know that when our alumni are engaged in a personally meaningful way, they are more likely to make a contribution. By maintaining engagement, when those alumni are ready, the foundation has the very best opportunity of closing the deal and achieving the $200m annual goal.

To achieve this vision, we must expand the methods by which we connect and engage our alums.

Some of the groundwork has been laid such as the launching of WVU Connect, our virtual network.

It was through WVU Connect that Sharon has been able to grow her team of trained alumni recruiters from 75 to 890 in less than 2 years. WVU Connect is having a direct impact on our ability to recruit top-notch out-of-state students.

The groundwork is laid for scholarships. This year the alumni association will give out just over $600,000 to students from around the U.S. Yet, our Chapters and the LPEF team are not resting on their laurels. They continue to grow these endowments and create new ones.

The Mountaineer Alliance business network is in early phases of development, but we’ve already seen results.

One example is Dan Duenkel expanding his business from the DC Metro area to Martinsburg and bringing over 70 high-tech jobs to WV. His involvement in the Mountaineer Alliance also led to his first contributions to WVU and in the coming week he has told me he will announce a major gift to the Mens Soccer program.

It was through the Mountaineer Alliance that we found Garth Smith, known in the Boston Market as Mr. Virtual Reality. Garth is a 1986 graduate of the aerospace engineering program and has grown a very successful virtual reality company in Boston. When I met him a little over a year ago, he had not been in Morgantown since he graduated.

Since then, he has donated his software to the College of Engineering and just last week to the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. He’s built high powered virtual reality workstations for engineering free of charge and is now working on a flight simulator for the neuroscience institute. He’s on the MAE visiting committee and is now an engineering Distinguished Alum. I suspect Garth will be in this room one day serving on one of our boards.

There are many, many more Dan’s and Garth’s out there. Alums we don’t know. Alums we have no information on or anything of significance in our databases. Alums who want to be engaged but are lost and not effectively transitioned from students to alumni.

To support the needs of the Institution and Foundation, we are charged and accept the mission of finding these graduates, putting our arms around them, showing them that we care, and pulling them back into the Mountaineer family.

In the past year, the WVU Alumni Association has had more than 10 million touchpoints with alumni, fans and donors, and that number is growing every year.

We will continue growing depth and breadth in the programs and services of our chapters and interest groups. This is where we already have our volunteers in place with eyes and ears on the ground and a concentration of alumni.  We know these volunteer alumni leaders can rapidly win the hearts and minds of our lost alums.

Connected to these chapters, we will grow the Mountaineer Alliance Business Network. Our two years of testing have demonstrated the potential of this program in uncovering alumni gems who we did not know such as Sarah Biller.

And now, Sara is leading the Vantage Ventures effort. She, as well as John Chambers, will tell you the Mountaineer Alliance is critical to the success of the startup WV effort and Mike Graney will tell you it is key to the growth of economic prosperity for the state. After last week in Houston, I believe Javier will tell you it’s also critical to him finding the new donors required to support the construction of a new business school.

Every alum begins as a student and the alumni association must do more to engage our students. WVU Connect forms the centerpiece for our students to interact with alumni, find mentors, and ask questions. As we spread this across our schools and colleges, career centers and advisors, our students will find alumni ready to advise, mentor, review resumes, and introduce them to life in the workplace. The transition from student to alum must occur in Morgantown, WV, not after they’ve left and settled into their first job.

We will continue to grow the utilization of the Erickson Alumni Center, our Alumni’s home away from home and the premier event center in North Central West Virginia. Each year we are seeing growth in the number of events we host and more and more alumni are making The Erickson a mandatory stop while visiting Morgantown.

While each of our boards have a different mission, we all share one common goal of helping West Virginia University to achieve its fullest potential. By working together more closely as the leaders and advisors of this great institution, we can secure a brighter future for our beloved alma mater.  

It’s a privilege to serve our alumni, institution and state and an honor to be here tonight with you. What we have here is very special and the future is, indeed, very bright.

Thank you again for lending us your time and your leadership.

Let’s Go!

Sean, ‘89