College Beat: Investing in education inspires student success

I was inspired to accept an offer from former Red Deer College President, Ron Woodward, to join the Executive Team at RDC in 2001. This was initially through my involvement as a volunteer on the RDC Campaign Cabinet that raised $7.2 million – still a lot of money today – to help build the College’s Library Information Common. I was inspired by the College’s leadership and vision, along with a foundational commitment to student success from those leaders and by faculty and staff, inspiration that has continued under the leadership of current President Joel Ward.

Coupled with this was my own belief in the value of RDC to Red Deer and Central Alberta as essential to what makes our region a special place to live. Our family grew to love the community we now call home and being able to make a mid-career change and remain in Red Deer was exciting. Now, as I retire from RDC after 18 years, having been privileged to serve in variety of meaningful and influential roles, I remain just as inspired and passionate about our College – soon to become Red Deer University.

Along the way, that inspiration has been fueled by my deep belief in the importance of investing in education – and not just by Governments who often see post-secondary education only as an expense line item in a budget. It is why I dedicated my efforts, along with the teams that I had the privilege of leading, to seek to inspire corporate entities, business owners and individuals to consider the value of RDC to our region and to invest in the success of our students. Over the years, that came about in many ways, through incredible donations, committed sponsorships, major events and “in-kind” contributions.

Sometimes, fundraisers are viewed less positively – hold onto your wallet, here they come again. Yet I have witnessed the laudable and inspired efforts of colleagues in so many charitable organizations throughout Alberta and beyond, who want to inspire donor investment in causes so critical to the fabric of our communities.

I am proud to be a fund development professional and to strive for success in this good work. Because at the core, it isn’t about fundraising, it is about seeking to build respectful relationships, earning the trust of individuals that we will honour and steward their investment, large or small, in a way that preserves the trust we have been given.

The experiences I’ve enjoyed over almost 20 years of working with RDC’s amazing group of senior administration colleagues, staff and faculty, being part of helping learners achieve their educational goals, has been a true privilege. But so memorable and humbling, has been the opportunity to engage donors, alumni, partners, sponsors, volunteers and community members. They showed me, time and again, their own passion for RDC, their commitment to our students and so often, the true meaning of generosity and philanthropy.

I have been honoured to work with donors who, during the saddest times of their lives, would establish a student award in memory of their spouse, son or daughter. As well, in the best of times, donors from our own community came forward to invest in RDC with major, transformational gifts, whom we have gratefully recognized. And in challenging times, I have seen businesses and their owners support new programs, believing in the value of investing in RDC to build and expand.

Because of these investments, we have been able to construct incredible new facilities, bring new programs to life and create scholarships for students, whose lives have been changed in remarkable ways. As RDC becomes RDU, I hope you will also be inspired to invest in the exciting future that lies ahead for the College – and continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our learners.

Michael Donlevy, Vice President, Business Development at Red Deer College, will be retiring at the end of June.

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