COLUMBIA, SC — Michelle Dodenhoff, who has helped raise more than $900 million in eight years at the University of South Carolina, is heading back to her hometown of New Orleans.
This was a very difficult decision, as I see myself as a Gamecock through and through, Dodenhoff, USCs vice president of development and alumni relations, wrote in a letter sent to school administrators. In the end, my decision was based on the needs of my family.
USC president Harris Pastides said Dodenhoff built a strong team. She added 10 fundraisers and bolstered the experience on USCs fundraising staff.
She built a development group of talented people, Pastides said. A lot of people think fundraising is just about glad-handing or talking to alumni. Its about an organization.
Pastides said he must find a successor who can maintain the momentum that Dodenhoff built for USCs ongoing $1 billion Carolinas Promise campaign, which has raised $655 million since 2007. The campaign hopes to reach its goal by 2015.
Im going to look at people who already know the university and the state, he said, adding he would consider candidates with less familiarity with South Carolina.
During Dodenhoffs tenure, the schools fundraising total passed the $100 million mark for a single year for the first time, in 2007-08, and has risen each year since, reaching $146.8 million in 2011-12. USC is on track to bring in $135 million in donations this year, she said.
Highlights included Houston billionaire Robert McNair donating $10 million in 2008 to the USC scholars program that bears his name, and Florida health care entrepreneurs William and Lou Kennedy pledging $30 million for a new pharmacy research center in 2010.
Its about increasing expectations, Dodenhoff said in an interview. That first $100 million year, I remember telling the board, This is now the floor.
Donors now are more willing to open their checkbooks to USC because of the schools recent successes, ranging from a top-national ranking for its Honors College to a pair of NCAA baseball titles, Dodenhoff said. People are reacting to the leadership, and where they are taking the university.
Dodenhoff worked in fundraising and alumni relations for 11 years at Tulane Universitys Health Sciences Center before joining USC.
She will return to her hometown to become chief development officer of Ochsner Health System. Her last day at USC is April 12.