Pelzel readies for capital campaign

by Tracy Landers | 4/17/02 5:00am

As Dartmouth gears up for the start of its next capital campaign in 2003, Vice President of Development Carolyn Pelzel leads a team of 150 staff members dedicated to making it easy for people to give money to Dartmouth.

Working closely with Vice President of Alumni Relations Stanley Colla, Pelzel and her co-workers raised $114 million for the College last year.

Pelzel's job, though less than fully understood by students, is an important one considering that 38 percent of the College's revenue comes from gifts.

Pelzel said that Dartmouth's $2.5 billion endowment, which provides 27.1 percent of College's revenue, would not exist but for the philanthropy of past and current generations. Eleven percent of revenue comes from the Dartmouth College Fund and other gifts.

"A third of what you experience here has been built in some measure because of the generosity of your predecessors -- that's extraordinary," Pelzel said.

Despite the automatic connection in people's minds between "development" and "fund-raising," Pelzel emphasized that her job isn't simply raising money.

"My view is that our job is to promote philanthropy -- to help people find satisfaction in making gifts to Dartmouth and in investing in the education of students," Pelzel said. She described an important part of her job as "building relationships with alumni for a lifetime."

Pelzel said she is passionate about education, and that her own educational experience inspired her to want to help students. A graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut, Pelzel said she was given a "very significant scholarship."

"I took full advantage of those four years. I doubled-majored, was introduced to squash and joined the varsity team, sang in the concert choir and did two independent research projects while I was there," Pelzel said.

Studying French and the philosophy of religion, Pelzel's academic interests led her to graduate school until, she said, "I realized I didn't have the personal resources to pursue that kind of education."

Pelzel's primary function as Vice President of Development is to prepare for the upcoming capital campaign, which will be the fourth of its kind since 1957. The seven-year campaign is expected to augment the endowment by $1 billion, which represents a 40 percent increase.

In 2000 the endowment provided each student with $472,128, which puts Dartmouth in 17th place among American universities with enrollment of 1,000 or more. By comparison, Princeton's endowment per student is $1,321,911, Harvard's is $1,109,532 and Yale's is $929,994.

"Dartmouth does an extraordinary job with considerably less revenue per student," Pelzel said. She spoke enthusiastically about what makes Dartmouth different from other educational institutes.

"Faculty here love teaching undergrads and are able to pursue a rigorous agenda of scholarship. Other universities talk about doing this, but very few do it as well as Dartmouth."

Pelzel also spoke of the College's less tangible qualities.

"There is a spirit about Dartmouth -- it's quite special. It attracts very smart, energetic, passionate people whose lives are full of pursuits and who are at the same time able to form deep friendships. ... I talk to alumni who tell me, 'Every week I'm in touch with three or four Dartmouth friends.'"

While she often works on campus with the president, provost and deans, talking to alumni off-campus is a regular part of Pelzel's daily life. She travels all over the country to talk to potential donors and take part in the College's Horizons fund-raising program.

She mentioned a recent trip she took to San Francisco to be present at a conference of alumni and parents. Dean of Faculty Jamshed Bharucha, Tucker Foundation Dean Stuart Lord, the head librarian, the head of the Hood Museum and two Trustees came together to update supporters on College's needs.

Pelzel is working to educate not only Californians but also her staff. She is organizing a professional development program that will consist of history classes to teach development employees about Dartmouth. She joked that she wished Dartmouth students would take such a class.

"Students play a critical role in the fund-raising process," Pelzel stressed. She urged students to seek internships with the Dartmouth College Fund and alumni relations and to join the Greencorps, a voluntary student group that petitions funds from alumni.

"In my judgment there is nothing more effective in the fund-raising than a conversation between a student and alumnus," Pelzel concluded. Statistics bear this statement out: $73 million of the $114 million collected from donations last year came from individual alumni and parents.