I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

2016 was a terrific year for colleagues and friends: long standing; rediscovered; and, most enjoyably, new. Together we solved knotty problems, spent lots of time on staffing issues, engaged in strategic (and operations) thinking and planning, and developed cases for support. Often, over wine, (or tempura rolls), we engaged in what some mentoring or coaching, mostly around career choices and moves. We tried like the devil to avoid political debates. We celebrated successes. Fortunate, I am, as Yoda would say.

Jeff Krug, a former VCU School of Business colleague, and now dean of the Bloomsburg University Zeigler College of Business, invited me up to spend a couple of days meeting with his key staff, review his program initiatives, assess their potential for securing the funding, and craft a solicitation strategy for a multimillion dollar transformational gift from a donor who wanted solid assurances and tangible outcomes. 

Long-time friend and colleague Bess Littlefield, vice president, institutional advancement at Reynolds Community College, asked if I would help develop a Healthcare Professions Initiative. Working closely with School of Nursing and Allied Health dean Susan Hunter, whose leadership is developing new career pathways and ladders, and stackable credentials, our goal is to engage employers, faculty, and students in a partnership that will ensure and enhance Reynolds’ position as the leading provider in this critical segment of the Richmond region’s workforce.

Gerry Starsia and I met ten years ago when UVA”s Macintire School of Commerce and VCU’s School of Business were completing new buildings. He’s now Associate Professor, and Executive Director of UVA’s Curry School of Education Foundation, with a great team, and bold mission. We are working together to further Curry’s vision; including seeking support for some powerful program projects that are interdisciplinary, well-conceived, and much needed. He asked me to join his Advisory Council, and also assist with implementing a broad strategy to engage alumni, corporations, foundations, and potential partner organizations.

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Almost two years ago, I picked the brains of John Sherman and Wally Stettinius on ways we might honor Buford Scott for his years of service to the Virginia Council on Economic Education (VCEE), on whose board and executive committee I serve. On November 16 this year, after months of twice weekly meetings with Dan Mortensen, Eric Kauders, Philip Brooks, Jeffrey Wilt, and Sally Holzgrefe, and Judi Crenshaw, family, friends and colleagues honored Buford’s 47 years of board service at a gala dinner, and established the S. Buford Scott Endowment for Economic Education in Virginia. Managed by The Community Foundation of Greater Richmond, the Scott Endowment will further the goals and mission of the VCEE.

Federal Reserve of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker, former Governor Gerard Baliles, VCEE Board Chair Eric Kauders, VCEE Executive Director Dan Mortensen, teacher Christine Pedersen, student Amara Kromah, and then Buford himself spoke on the critical importance of financial literacy and an understanding of economics. VCEE’s teacher institutes, at university centers around the Commonwealth, help ensure that 90,000 high school seniors graduate annually with a full year of well-taught financial literacy and economics instruction. Virginia leads the nation. 

Buford’s celebration was a wonderful success, due in great measure to Sally Holzgrefe, our nonpareil event planner, and Wendy Shannon, our data maven, who built and managed our invitation and donor database. Sally herded us cats and managed the myriad tasks and inputs flawlessly. It would not have been the success it was without their considerable talents. (Sally’s resume is on my Blaisdell Consult website.)

Working with Suzanne Madison Hogg, and Pete Wagner, we developed two major (higher education) feasibility and campaign proposals.  One institution decided to halt and reorganize, and the other went with local counsel. Our dream team of subject matter experts was extraordinary and unique. Suzanne is now vice president at Faison, and I look forward to continuing our collaboration.

I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know Jeffrey Wilt and Alan Hutson of the Monument Group. Working closely with Jeffrey, and Elizabeth Warren on the Scott Endowment (she wrote the excellent case for support) has been a treat. Bobby Thalhimer, Gill Lugbill, and Patte Koval are experienced, savvy professionals with whom I enjoy interacting. All are smart, talented, and fun.

Kathy Laing asked me if I would teach “case development” at University of Richmond’s Institute on Philanthropy. I jumped at the chance.  The students, new development officers of every stripe, were great. I look forward to this spring’s class.

Samantha Marrs has been a constant colleague for more than a decade. All roads seem to lead to her VCU office and her good counsel, and she makes all of us better professionals. Reconnecting, and working alongside Heidi Crapol, former Genworth vice president,(whom I met when she intelligently and generously supported VCU’s School of Business) has been a pleasure.  I drove to Boston to celebrate the retirement of Josh Young, my friend and colleague at Tufts and the New England Aquarium.  Tufts had the good sense to appoint him to the School of Medicine's board.

With colleagues and friends like these, and many more, I look forward with pleasure to what 2017 will bring.