August 8th, 2012

Q & A: Inside the Kickoff

Q&AThe Campaign for Boston University launches September 22 at Agganis Arena with a University-wide kickoff celebration of historic proportions. We got the inside scoop on this landmark event from campaign kickoff co-chairs SungEun Han-Andersen (CFA’85), president and secretary of the G. C. Andersen Family Foundation; and Richard C. Shipley (SMG’68, GSM’72), managing director of Shiprock Capital, LLC.

What are your aspirations for this kickoff? What do you want to see happen as a result of it?

Shipley: Ultimately, of course, we’d like to see BU reach its objective. And, frankly, we’d like to pull in those billion dollars ahead of schedule.

Han-Andersen: And specifically for the kickoff weekend, we want people to feel comfortable that we are on a successful launch pad. We want them to be inspired by the generosity of the donors who have already committed, and join us in the cause.

What are the inherent challenges in doing something like this?

Han-Andersen: For one thing, BU has never done it before! [Laughs]

Shipley: Exactly. We’re new to a lot of this.

Han-Andersen: And at the same time, BU doesn’t really have a long tradition of getting together as a big group. Our alumni base hasn’t really pulled together before. This is the first time, so it’s a challenge. And an opportunity, of course.

The converse question would be, does BU have strengths that we can draw upon?

Shipley: Yes, absolutely. We have a very strong leader in Bob Brown, and a very strong leadership team that has continued to grow around him. The University clearly is making terrific strides, and part of our effort is to help our fellow alumni understand that, and persuade them to help support our march forward.

Han-Andersen: I have to admit that, even though I’m an alumna myself, I’m finding out great things about BU that I didn’t know about before. I think we are discovering things ourselves, at the same time everybody else is.

What’s the message that you want to have ringing in the ears of alumni and friends as they leave town on Sunday morning?

Han-Andersen: Easy: “We need your help!”

Shipley: Yes. Couldn’t say it any better. “Help!”

Why is the success of this campaign important to BU?

Shipley: Well, there are a lot of things that we can’t do, as things currently stand. It’s true that we’re a very large university—with an operating budget of over $2 billion—but for a university of our size, we’ve got a very small endowment, and that restricts the things that we can do. And so I come back to what Sung said: We need their help, to keep improving the University on all fronts. For example: helping pull in top-caliber students and faculty members.

Han-Andersen: Another way of saying that is to point out that BU has really done a tremendous job at managing itself. Because we’ve had such a small endowment, relative to our size, we’ve had to run an incredibly lean operation. But that works only up to a point. If you want to go farther, you need to expand the resource base.

Shipley: And actually, that raises a concern of mine. Every university that’s out there raising money is making more or less the same noises. So you have to come back to, “What do we have that’s different?”

One answer, as I’ve said, is that we’re blessed with a powerful leadership team, headed by Bob Brown, which literally is on the move. Producing results. I know that sounds trite, but in our case it’s true. Even the best strategy depends on great execution—execution is where the rubber meets the road—and we have that. If we can put some additional resources behind that strategy, and its execution, we’ll be in very, very good shape.

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