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Archive for Thursday, March 9, 2006

Haskell looking for endowment leader

March 9, 2006

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Unlike most colleges, Haskell Indian Nations University does not have an active endowment association.

It doesn't have anyone who leans on alumni for donations, solicits tribes or calls on foundations.

Without private money coming in, Haskell's purse strings remain tied to the federal government, which, in recent years, has allowed the university's budget to lag behind inflation.

That may soon change.

Haskell officials say they've landed a federal grant that includes money for someone to run an endowment. The university already has appointed an eight-member board to oversee the endowment's operations.

"This is an urgent priority," said Venida Chenault, Haskell's vice president for academic affairs.

The position and its $47,303-to-$80,975 salary are listed on www.usajobs.gov, an Internet-based clearinghouse for federal jobs. Requirements include a master's degree and fundraising experience within a university setting. Candidates do not have to be Haskell graduates.

Plans call for filling the position as soon as regulations allow.

"We're looking for somebody who can tell Haskell's story and who can generate excitement within the university's stakeholders," Chenault said.

Haskell is the nation's only four-year college for American Indians, offering baccalaureate degrees in business, elementary education, environmental science and American Indian studies.

Since its founding in 1884, Haskell has been a boarding school, a vocational school and a junior college. It still offers two-year associate degrees in the arts and sciences.

"I'm hoping we can get Indian country to understand how important Haskell is to our future as a people," said Ernie Stevens Jr., a member of the endowment's board of directors and chairman of the National Indian Gaming Assn.

"We've really made strides in creating a quality learning environment at Haskell," Stevens said. "It's time now to build on that success. Everywhere I go I meet people in positions of leadership and authority who have benefited from the education they received at Haskell. There's a legacy there for us to build on."

Haskell's fundraising efforts suffered a crippling blow in 2000 when the Internal Revenue Service filed a $127,996 lien against the Haskell Foundation.

The foundation's executive director, Gerry Burd, was later charged with stealing more than $100,000 from foundation accounts. He pleaded guilty in 2001 and spent a year in prison.

According to Burd's ex-wife, Burd committed suicide last year after realizing he'd been caught stealing from his brother's veterinary clinic.

Haskell cut its ties to the foundation in 2000. The new endowment is in no way associated with the foundation.

"Quite frankly, we've had national organizations tell us they want to give to Haskell, but they say they can't because of what happened with the foundation," Chenault said. "We need to put that behind us."

But the endowment, she said, will not represent a quick fix to the university's current budget troubles.

"Endowments operate on interest, not on principal," she said. "So this is very long-term."

Earlier this year, Haskell officials learned the university's maintenance department's $4.1 million budget had been cut $600,000; its operations budget - teacher salaries, primarily - was cut $238,000.

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