The Board of Regents and President Mark Schlissel lauded outgoing Vice President for Development Jerry May on Thursday, thanking him for three decades of fundraising work in service of the university.
May is set to retire at the end of the year after wrapping up the Victors for Michigan campaign, the first fundraising effort at a public university to raise more than $5.1 billion, including more than $1.1 billion dedicated to student support.
“Jerry has been essential to making our university the finest and most comprehensively excellent public university in the nation,” Schlissel said. “Donors are our lifeblood at U-M, enhancing our mission of education, research, service and patient care.
“Our supporters have helped us to set impressive records in philanthropy, and Jerry’s ability to connect members of our community to the causes they feel most passionate about is a primary reason for our success.”
The board signed a resolution to give May status as vice president emeritus, a rare move at the university.
Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs echoed the president’s praise in reading the resolution, describing May as a “tireless ambassador of the university.”
“His limitless energy and laser-focused commitment to development have allowed him to raise the bar time and again,” said Ryder Diggs, reading from the resolution.
May’s development work at U-M stretches back more than three decades, with his first 13 years spent in various senior fundraising positions.
During that time, he helped plan the university’s Campaign for Michigan and helped lead its nucleus fund, which is the money raised before a campaign is announced. The campaign eventually brought in $1.4 billion and became the first billion-dollar campaign by a public university.
He left U-M in 1992 to serve as president of The Ohio State University Foundation, where he led that fundraising team in the most successful campaign in the school’s history, raising $1.23 billion.
May returned to U-M in 2003 as vice president for development to lead the fundraising team in the planning and implementation of the Michigan Difference campaign, which exceeded its $2.5 billion goal by raising $3.2 billion by its conclusion in December 2008.
May and his team then planned the current Victors for Michigan campaign, focusing on all schools, colleges and non-degree granting units. The original $4 billion goal was surpassed and the fundraising continues through the end of the year.
Regents named May’s successor, longtime university fundraiser Thomas Baird, at Thursday’s meeting.
A native of Grand Rapids, May earned a bachelor’s degree from Hope College and a master’s degree at the University of Vermont. He also did graduate work at the University of Michigan in the doctoral program in higher education.
“Let me say how tremendously honored I am that you gave me this recognition,” said May, who used much of his time Thursday to praise his development staff and the volunteers who have helped make the university’s fundraising so successful.
“Thank you for the honor and the privilege,” he said.