Senior Vice President Kirsch to leave post after 20 years of service

Rodney P. Kirsch, senior vice president for Development and Alumni Relations at Penn State, will leave his position on Aug. 31 after leading the University from start to finish through two, seven-year, billion-dollar-plus capital campaigns and overseeing the attainment of new private support totaling $4.4 billion during his tenure.

"Rod's excellent leadership and ability to oversee some of our most critical needs and significant interactions with alumni and friends is unequaled in his field," said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. "His diligence in fundraising and in conveying the deepest needs of this institution and our students has been stellar and he has laid a solid foundation for anyone who follows. In fact, he leaves such a legacy of success that it will be difficult to fill his shoes. We wish him the absolute best as he moves ahead to the next chapter."

Martha Jordan, chair of the executive committee of the Penn State Advisory Council on Philanthropy, said Kirsch’s inspiration of volunteers and contributions to Penn State “can't be overstated.”

“His steadfast commitment to raising funds for students, his sincere love of the institution and his superb judgment have inspired many a volunteer not only to contribute dollars, but to engage actively with the University,” Jordan said. “While personally I'm sad to see him go, I couldn't be happier that he has made a decision to enter a new phase of his life.”

Kirsch, who is among only a handful of individuals nationally who has managed two, seven-year, billion-dollar-plus campaigns from beginning to end at a single institution, helped Penn State raise more money during his first decade as vice president than the University had raised over its previous 140 years in existence.

Among Kirsch’s other achievements and contributions to Penn State are:

--Garnered $1.27 billion in contributions for the University’s endowment as the market value of Penn State’s endowment during his tenure sextupled from $400 million to $2.4 billion at its highest;

-- Was instrumental in securing transformational gifts for several landmark programs at Penn State, including the Schreyer Honors College; H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens; Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture; Weiss Breakthrough Scholars Program; Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences; and the Presidential Leadership Academy.

-- Oversight of private fundraising of more than $300 million in support of nearly four dozen capital projects including the Children’s Hospital at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center; Pegula Ice Arena; the Business School Building; Hintz Family Alumni Center; Pasquerilla Spiritual Center; Tombros/McWhirter Academic Commons; The Bank of America Career Services Center; and the Huck Life Sciences Building.

-- Secured leadership endowments for five endowed deanships, one endowed chancellorship at Penn State Abington, and The Malloy/Paterno endowed Head Coach position in football.

Kirsch also conceived several successful matching gift programs, including the Trustee Matching Scholarship program, which has raised $145 million, and the Faculty Endowment Challenge, which raised $16 million for 47 Early Career Professorships.

Through his work overseeing the For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, Penn State established a new national standard for alumni donors giving to a single university campaign  -- 176,000 --  more alumni donors than any other public or private university in the history of American higher education.

“I have been incredibly privileged to lead the fundraising program for two decades at one of the world’s great public universities.  The passion and commitment which our alumni and friends have for this university is unsurpassed,” Kirsch said.  “I am enormously indebted to every member of the Penn State family who has labored to create opportunity and excellence for future generations of Penn Staters through their philanthropy and volunteerism.  The future of philanthropy is bright at Penn State and I look forward to seeing all the great things the University will accomplish in the future.”

Not only has Kirsch been successful in raising major gifts, but he and his wife, Michele, associate dean of Student Affairs in the Schreyer Honors College, have personally committed nearly $200,000 of their own resources in private support to Penn State. The Kirsches have endowed the Vice President for Development Staff Excellence Award; established the Kirsch/Stipanovich Trustee Scholarship; funded the Prairie Patch at the Children’s Garden in the Penn State Arboretum; and, just last month, provided seed money to help create the first embedded counselor position for the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Kirsch, a North Dakota native, came to Penn State at age 39 from Indiana University where he had served as senior vice president for development at the Indiana University Foundation. Before that he was at the University of California at Berkeley and Drake University.  On a national level, he has been a frequent speaker at Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) seminars and for 15 years has been a faculty member of the Big Ten Fundraisers Institute, a premier educational seminar for senior development professionals. More recently, institutions and development professionals have sought his guidance and expertise on how to raise private funds and maintain donor relations during times of institutional crisis.

Kirsch is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the School of Education at Indiana University. In 2014, Penn State and the Penn State Alumni Association granted him Honorary Alumnus status.

In reflecting on his work in philanthropy and higher education over 34 years, Kirsch said, “I’m a very lucky guy. I found a calling in my life that I really enjoy and have been able to work for many years at some superb universities with exceptional philanthropists and talented professional staff. Together, we touched a lot of lives and helped make the world a bit better place. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

Last Updated March 22, 2016