USC fundraising chief is leaving position

ashain@thestate.comFebruary 7, 2013 

— 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, USC’s 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 USC’s 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. It’s about an organization.”

Pastides said he must find a successor who can maintain the momentum that Dodenhoff built for USC’s ongoing $1 billion Carolina’s Promise campaign, which has raised $655 million since 2007. The campaign hopes to reach its goal by 2015.

“I’m 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 Dodenhoff’s tenure, the school’s 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.

“It’s 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 school’s 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 University’s 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.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service