Dale Seuferling is more than happy to talk about his first year as president of the Kansas University Endowment Association -- as long as he doesn't have to focus on himself.
After all, it seems a bit disingenuous to talk about personal accomplishments during a year spent trying to ride out the post-Sept. 11 economy and having to cut contributions to the university by as much as 20 percent.
"That really hurt," he said.
It's also awkward to talk about the past year as if it were significantly different from his previous 22, he said. It wasn't. Seuferling's focus, he said, didn't change.
"It's all about enhancing the university," he said.
And he'd rather not talk about his accomplishments when, really, it's the donors, friends and alumni who make things happen.
Seuferling's modesty is one of his major strengths, said Kurt Watson, a member of the endowment association's executive committee.
"He does not want the spotlight to be him, he wants it to be on the friends and alumni who have made the endowment such an integral part of university life," said Watson, president of IMA Financial group in Wichita.
Despite the economy being stuck in low gear, Watson said the association remains strong.
"That's a reflection is Dale's leadership -- his is a professional, behind-the-scenes approach that's just so effective," Watson said.
"Strong leaders know that when they're successful, it's almost always because of the people around them; if it weren't for the whole team, it wouldn't have happened," he said. "Dale understands the importance of giving credit to others. Nobody does it any better."
Seuferling's abilities and commitment to KU are unquestioned. Since joining the endowment staff as director of public relations in May 1981, he's been director of constituent programs, director of major gifts, vice president for development, senior vice president for development and executive vice president for development.
He was named president in July 2002, replacing Jim Martin, who retired after 28 years -- the last 10 as president.
Picking Seuferling, 48, to be president was a no-brainer, Watson said.
"As a member of the executive committee, I can tell you that calls were made to other endowments and to our partners -- portfolio managers, mostly -- who work with endowments across the country," Watson said. "And the response was always the same: 'Your best candidate is right there on your staff. It's Dale Seuferling.'
"That made it a very easy decision," he said.
Seuferling grew up in Louisburg. He graduated from KU in 1977 with a degree in journalism.
He and his wife, Marianne, have two daughters, Marci, 12, and Tess, 8. They live in west Lawrence.
Striving for its goal
In February, endowment officials announced that its "KU First: Invest in Excellence" campaign had raised $404 million and was on track to reach its $500-million goal in 2004.
"There will be a new number announced in September," Seuferling said.
Since the campaign's inception in 1998, KU First's accomplishments include:
- Money for 15 construction projects, including a classroom building at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, School of Engineering expansion, Dole Institute of Politics, Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center, and Hoglund Brain Imaging Center at KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
- Creating 230 scholarship funds, with another 56 pledged as estate gifts.
- Creating 30 professorship funds, with another 13 pledged as estate gifts.
Since February, the endowment association has announced more than a dozen major gifts and pledges, including $2.3 million from the Thomas and Barbara Page estate, a $3 million pledge from Roger and Annette Rieger and a $1 million pledge from Douglas and Laura Wheat.
In June, Robert J. Eaton pledged $5 million toward the 80,000-square-foot expansion of the KU School of Engineering facilities.
The gift was among the 10 largest single gifts ever received by the endowment. The building will be named for Eaton.
Eaton, who grew up in Arkansas City, succeeded Lee C. Iacocca as chairman and CEO of the Chrysler Corp. In 1998 he helped design the $76 billion merger between Chrysler and Daimler-Benz AG. He retired in 2000.
A mechanical engineering major, Eaton graduated from KU in 1963.
Though Eaton's gift was unique in size, his motives were typical of many benefactors,' Seuferling said.
"What we see so many times is that for so many people, KU represents opportunity -- an opportunity to succeed in whatever it is they want to do," Seuferling said. "And once they've had success, they want to share it with others. They want others to have the opportunities they had."
Or, as Eaton said a statement that accompanied his pledge: "I have always viewed being from Kansas as positive, and the good solid Kansas values I was raised with have served me well. My experiences at KU were critical for what I was preparing to do -- academically, culturally and socially --especially having come from a small town. I believe that we ought to support the things that have an impact on our lives."
Not all the past year's news was good.
In January, the endowment association announced that its portfolio had lost 20 percent of its value since June 2000, and the total value of its --including cash and real estate -- had dipped below $1 billion for the first time since 1999.
According to a report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the association took the hardest hit among its counterparts at Big 12 universities.
Seuferling blamed the poor performance on the endowment's emphasis on equities, mainly stocks.
The endowment, he said, was prepared to ride out the storm.
That storm seems to be dissipating.
"Our April and May figures were up 10 percent," Seuferling said. "The fact that we've remained as stable as we have, I think, is a major accomplishment. We need to be patient."