Advanced placement

Tom Harris begins five-year term as vice-principal (advancement)

Tom Harris, vice-principal (advancement) says advancement activities have raised $31 million for the University in the last nine months.
Tom Harris, vice-principal (advancement) says advancement activities have raised $31 million for the University in the last nine months.

His new office may be neat and tidy, but Tom Harris’s job responsibilities aren’t.

Last Monday, Harris began his five-year term as the University’s new vice-principal (advancement), inheriting an office that will increasingly be relied on to bring Queen’s revenue in the face of severe budget cuts.

“My office is neat and tidy because I’ve only been here a few days,” Harris said, adding that although he’s new to the position, he’s not new to Queen’s.

A Queen’s graduate in the class of ’75, Harris spent 11 years as Dean of Applied Science and a chemical engineering professor.

Harris replaces Sean Conway, who was interim Vice-Principal (Advancement) after David Mitchell left the position on Dec. 31, 2008.

The Advancement office primarily works to raise money for the University as well as build external relations, Harris said.

“We don’t have our own agenda,” he said. “We carry out priorities set by the principal and provost.”

Queen’s is in the midst of three major capital projects: the School of Kinesiology, a new performing arts centre and a new medical building.

So far, about $44 million has been raised to finance the $169-million Queen’s Centre, which opened on Dec. 1.

Harris said he’s working on raising another $125 million for the centre, as well as the last $19 million for the new medical school building, which broke ground in October 2009.

He’s also preparing for a major fundraising campaign that will begin in the next 12 to 16 months.

This campaign will focus on carrying out the principal’s academic plans, he said.

The University is projected to run an $8.3 million deficit in its operating budget for 2009-10.

The Advancement office is broken down into three departments.

The marketing and communications department focuses on the University’s web presence, sending information to alumni and assisting faculties with independent marketing.

The alumni department works on alumni outreach and events, affinity programs and the annual telephone and mail fundraising campaigns.

The development department works to secure major gifts, which include scholarship and bursary donations and large donations such as those from Alfred and Isabel Bader or Robert Buchan.

The Baders have given the University Herstmonceux Castle in England, a $17-million Rembrandt painting and, most recently, $18 million towards Queen’s new performing arts centre.

Robert Buchan gave the mining engineering department a $10 million donation in the fall.

“I did a lot of work on advancement and development and learned a lot about it and developed a passion for it,” Harris said. “My role in the first month is to better understand the position, the pressure points and the expectations of the University and then work on a strategy for where we want to be in one, three, five and 10 years.” Harris said he wants to get students more involved in the fundraising process.

“There’s an energy, enthusiasm and perspective which is unique to students and if potential donors can see that, it’s very compelling,” he said, adding that he’s met with AMS president Michael Ceci and is meeting with Society of Graduate and Professional Students President Victoria Bae next week to discuss student involvement.

Since 2004, Advancement activities, which include both the efforts of the Office of Advancement and independent faculty fundraising, have raised $241 million for Queen’s.

Harris said the office has raised $31 million in the last nine months.

“In spite of a difficult economy, there have been some really good results.” When it comes to finding money, there isn’t just one strategy, Harris said.

“Donors don’t respond to need; they respond to opportunity,” he said. “They don’t want to hear moaning and groaning; they want to see how they can invest their hard-earned dollars and make something happen.”

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