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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 01 

Vice President Elizabeth Flanagan to step down

January 9, 2015

Photograph of Virginia Tech Vice President for Development and University Relations Elizabeth A. "Betsy" Flanagan
Elizabeth A. "Betsy" Flanagan

Elizabeth A. "Betsy" Flanagan, vice president for development and university relations, will step down effective June 30, 2015, to become senior fellow for advancement.

"Betsy has led and managed unprecedented gains in private fundraising for Virginia Tech," university President Timothy D. Sands said. "That the university has weathered losses of state funding and a difficult economy is due in part to our reliance on the philanthropy of our many alumni and friends. Dr. Flanagan was at the helm throughout an era of exceptional growth, helping create a strong financial backdrop."

Coming to Virginia Tech in July 2000, Flanagan immediately set to work outlining an aggressive fundraising campaign that ultimately sought to raise $1 billion, even though consultants recommended a goal of no more than $800 million. She reorganized and staffed the development office in order to position the university for the campaign. It concluded in November 2011 having garnered more than $1.11 billion in private support.  

President Emeritus Charles W. Steger, who hired Flanagan, remarked: "Looking around the campus today, we can see evidence of Betsy’s special skills. Many of our newest buildings were made possible only by the gifts of friends and alumni. More importantly, Betsy revamped the university fundraising arm to state-of-the art standards, putting in place protocols and an organization that significantly increased annual revenue."

Major capital projects that garnered key private support during Flanagan's tenure included expansions to Lane Stadium, the Skelton Conference Center, the Holtzman Alumni Center, the Moss Arts Center, Goodwin Hall, the Hahn Horticulture Garden, the Hahn-Hurst Basketball Practice Center, and the Steger Center for International Scholarship, among others. 

Steger added: "Betsy has made significant contributions to the university and has worked diligently over her tenure to make the case for private support and build strong relationships with colleagues and constituents."

"I have been fortunate to have spent 31 years in higher education, almost half of that at Virginia Tech, helping people achieve their dreams through education," Flanagan said. "It has been a singular pleasure working with wonderful people wishing to give their resources so that others can also share in the dream of education and personal fulfillment."

As part of the reorganization of fundraising operations she led, Flanagan set new standards for development officers, added research capabilities, and installed sophisticated analytical functionality. More than 70 positions were added during her tenure, enabling the university to almost double the amount of private gift income it receives each year. 

Virginia Tech's yearly gift income averaged about $46 million from 1995 to 2000. Over the past five years, the yearly average was $84 million, and gift income exceeded $90 million three times. 

John R. Lawson II, an alumnus who is president and CEO of W.M. Jordan Company, and is a former rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, was laudatory.

"As co-chair of the comprehensive campaign [along with David Calhoun], I worked very closely with Betsy," Lawson said. "She is a very strong leader. Her cheerful and unflinchingly positive attitude enabled us to achieve far more than was recommended. And we did it during the dark days of a historically bad recession."

Lawson added: "As a senior administrator, she was truly gifted because she knew how to engage volunteers and link donor desires with key institutional strategies. We harnessed the power of private philanthropy because she helped people see and share in the president’s vision."

Ultimately, more than 1,000 volunteers helped the university exceed the campaign's fundraising target.

During Flanagan's tenure, many new major donors invested in Virginia Tech's future. So many new ones came on board that she created new recognitions for them, including the President’s Circle, a distinction for members of the Ut Prosim Society who have given more than $1 million, which is held by 104 households. Membership in the Ut Prosim Society has topped 1,300 households, an increase of nearly 1,000 percent since the society's inception in 1987. Flanagan also created the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy initiative to help engage women in the life of the university through service and philanthropy.

The Legacy Society, created in 1990 to recognize friends and alumni who include the university in their wills, increased threefold between fiscal years 2000 and 2014. The amount raised through gifts to the university’s Annual Fund also increased dramatically during Flanagan’s tenure, reaching a record high of more than $6.5 million in fiscal 2014.

As executive vice president of the Virginia Tech Foundation, Flanagan helped increase administrative efficiencies, including bringing on line the new home for development and foundation offices, the University Gateway Center. She helped ensure continuity of the fundraising office by instituting a gift reinvestment fee.

As senior fellow for advancement, Flanagan will continue as a senior fundraiser working directly for President Sands. She will assist the university and the Virginia Tech Foundation to ensure a smooth and effective transition for her successor. In addition to aiding with the leadership transition, Flanagan will be involved in training of development staff, recruitment, and other special assignments drawing upon her many years of experience and expertise. 

President Sands has appointed John Dooley, chief executive officer of the Virginia Tech Foundation, to serve as chair of the search committee. Comprised of faculty, administrators, and alumni, the committee will conduct a national search for Flanagan’s successor, and will begin its work immediately.

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