Presidential finalist Dale: Winthrop ‘permeated with quality’

adouglas@heraldonline.comFebruary 1, 2013 

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    At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Dale led a team of people that studied the feasibility of starting a Division 1 football program.

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    “I think what Winthrop needs to move to the next level of excellence is to really, seriously consider how they develop other streams of revenue...

    “There’s a direct correlation between quality and resources,” Dale said.

    “If you created an Excel spreadsheet with all the universities in the United States and sorted it by the size of their endowment, you would see that the quality institutions have resources. And I think that Winthrop University can really propel itself to the next level by diversifying and increasing its resource stream.”

    In her meeting with faculty and staff on Friday, Dale listed multiple ways of boosting Winthrop’s bottom line. Her proposals include improving student retention and Winthrop’s graduation rate. Winthrop retains 72 percent of students from their freshmen to sophomore year. The university’s four-year graduation rate (the percentage of freshmen who graduate in four years) is 35.9 percent. The six-year graduation is 60 percent.

    Dale also proposed partnering with two-year colleges to facilitate academic credit transfers from community colleges to Winthrop. Building life-long relationships with alumni and expanding Winthrop’s international student recruitment, she said, would also net more tuition money.

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Elizabeth Dale has a love for fishing and for luring in big bucks from academic donors.

Landing a big education donor requires knowing that person’s passion, says Dale, a finalist vying for Winthrop University’s presidential post.

For more than a decade, Dale has been reeling in both big bucks and big fish.

Dale’s surf casting fishing hobby, she said, is actually harder than her job of raising millions for Drexel University, a research school in Philadelphia.

“No question about it,” she said. “You can be very strategic in finding your donors and there are just so many variables when you’re fishing--it’s the weather, it’s the tides.”

After spending six years as Drexel’s top fundraiser, Dale said she wants to bring her talents to Winthrop. She’s one of four finalists to succeed Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio, who is retiring at the end of this academic year.

Dale is the second of the finalists to visit Winthrop for three days of meetings and interviews. Her last set of meetings was Friday.

“My philosophy is that if you can uncover the real strengths, the differentiating programs and initiatives and achievements of a university...and if you match someone with great passion for an initiative, then they will invest,” she said.

“They can realize their vision for their passion through the university--that’s how I believe Winthrop can secure individual philanthropic support.”

Dale raised $81 million for Drexel in the last fiscal year--a record-breaking figure for the school’s fundraising arm.

“I am very impressed by (Winthrop),” Dale said.

“I think it’s just permeated with quality--quality faculty, quality students and just a beautiful campus.”

Having spent most of her career in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, Dale said she enjoys the South and has been to South Carolina many times to visit Drexel’s benefactors.

At breakfast Friday morning with some of Rock Hill’s community leaders, Dale tried grits for the first time and “really enjoyed it,” she said.

Dale spoke Friday on several issues in higher education and what she’d do as president at Winthrop University:

Should Winthrop have a football team?

“I think what Winthrop needs is to find here in South Carolina its own T. Boone Pickens,” Dale said.

Pickens is chairman of BP Capital Management. An alumni of Oklahoma State University, Pickens has given more than $400 million to the school, and the majority of the money has gone to athletics. His contributions helped OSU build its athletic village and to support its football program.

“We need to find a T. Boone Pickens that will write a check for $30 million so if Winthrop chose to do this, they could do it right and there’d be an endowment to sustain it,” Dale said.

“I am well aware of the cost involved,” she said. “Not only the cost for facilities. You need your stadium to play in, you need a practice field, you need training facilities and you need to match what you’re doing with Title IX” gender equity requirements.

How much importance does she place on liberal arts, cultural events and the arts?

Making art and cultural programming available at Winthrop gives students a “well-rounded college experience,” she said.

Winthrop’s commitment to cultural education, Dale said, is “impressive.”

If chosen as Winthrop’s president, Dale said she’d like to have student and faculty-produced artwork on the first floor of the campus’ President’s House.

A liberal arts education in general, she said, improves the chances of graduates entering the workforce.

Employers want students who have learned about working in teams, understand others’ perspectives and who have the ability to assimilate to new environments, Dale said.

What does she think about Gov. Nikki Haley’s plan to allocate taxpayer dollars to universities based on a college’s performance?

Before commenting specifically on Haley’s proposal, Dale she’d like to learn more about the current distribution of tax dollars in South Carolina.

“I know from my previous experience in higher education that if metrics are set out and they are metrics that can be understood and achievable and part of the institutional culture, that, in some ways, may level the playing field and take politics out of the equation.”

If chosen as Winthrop’s president, how long would she stay?

“I would stay until the job was done,” Dale said.

“If you look at my career, I stayed at the University of Massachusetts for over 20 years. And when I joined Drexel in 2006, I committed to stay until the campaign was completed.”

“We launched the campaign in December (2006) and the stock market soon imploded. And so we faced tough macro-economic situations.”

Dale is the leader of a Drexel campaign to raise $400 million. Her fundraising goal, she said, is almost complete with just about $13 million left to go.

“I fulfill the commitments that I make.”

How would she increase Winthrop’s donor base?

Elizabeth Dale

Current position: Senior vice president for institutional advance at Drexel University in Philadelphia

Before arriving at Drexel, Dale served as vice chancellor for University Advancement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was the founding executive director of the UMass Amherst Foundation.

Education: Master’s degree in public administration and a doctorate in educational policy, research and administration from UMass Amherst

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