Jeffrey Schoenherr — a veteran college fundraiser, most recently at Harvard Law School — was named vice president for development and alumni relations this week, making him the latest addition to President M. Lee Pelton’s cabinet.
Schoenherr, who will take office May 21, said he hopes to appeal to the college’s vast alumni network around the country to grow the endowment, which more than doubled in 2010.
“Emerson alumni are vibrant,” said Schoenherr. “The alumni I have met, and the students too, are very committed to Emerson, and I think there is a lot of opportunity in order to help show the philanthropic culture and better engage alumni.”
Schoenherr worked since January 2011 as the executive director of development and alumni relations at Harvard Law School, and previously held alumni and development positions at John Hopkins University and the University of Michigan.
He will succeed Barbara Rutberg, who has filled the position on an interim basis for eight months, following the previous Vice President Robert Ashton’s retirement last July. Ashton had served for more than four years as what was then called vice president for institutional advancement.
“Jeff’s initial task will be to bring the very latest best practices in alumni and donor relations to the college and to develop a strategic plan that in time will lead to Emerson’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign,” Pelton said in a mass email to the college.
Schoenherr said he decided to leave his current post at Harvard after hearing from colleagues about the open slot at Emerson. He said that the opportunity to work with Pelton – who won praise in Oregon for raising millions at his previous post as president at Willamette University – and to reach a broader alumni base beyond law school was an opportunity he could not pass up.
During Pelton’s tenure at Willamette, his seven-year fundraising campaign raised $131 million, exceeding the original goal of $125, according to a press release on Willamette’s website.
Pelton first announced his plans for the college’s major fundraising campaign in late 2011 at a staff forum, a press release on Emerson’s website said. According to U.S. News, Emerson’s endowment was $106,328,308 as of 2010.
Schoenherr said his main goal will be to mobilize younger graduates since a majority of the approximately 32,000 alumni graduated in the last 15 years.
“[I will] seek those interested in building projects and match them with that effort,” said Schoenherr.
He said he plans to see what programs Emerson has geared to young alumni, such as career services or development, as to tap the entire population.
“Well it is definitely true that young alumni are not the ones engaging in the larger gifts; however, in today’s world there are a lot of young alumni starting their career really quickly,” said Schoenherr.
Schoenherr said that by finding interested donors at the start of their careers, Emerson will rank highly with their other philanthropic efforts.
To complete the process to fill such positions the school hires a search firm and forms a selection committee, which in this case was chaired by Pelton. Members ranged from vice presidents, individuals on the board of trustees, faculty, and alumni donors and were selected based on their expertise, according to Andrew Tiedemann, vice president of communications and marketing.
Tiedemann, who served on this committee, said Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates – the firm that was selected for this specific position – provided a large applicant pool, which was narrowed to 40 people, then further cut down to 12 candidates.
Schoenherr stood out for three reasons, according to Tiedemann. He said that Schoenherr’s 20-plus years of experience in institutions with sophisticated fundraising and alumni relations programs, his proven organization and management skills, and his strong communication skills made him an ideal candidate.
“I think he is inheriting a really fabulous group [of alumni],” said Tiedemann. “There is a lot of opportunity for Jeff and his team to strengthen alumni relations and the philanthropic foundation of Emerson.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Jeffrey Schoenherr was named the vice president of alumni relations. He will be the new vice president for development and alumni relations.