For Florida native Wesley Clark, not even a promising career in law was worth giving up his passion for fundraising.
“I earned a law degree and passed the bar, but after a few years of practicing, I knew that I didn’t want to be a lawyer for my whole life,” Clark recalls. “I recognized my passion was in higher education and fundraising.”
Clark, who graduated from the University of Florida in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, is taking the next step of his dream career by becoming the new Annual Giving director at the University of Mississippi Office of Development.
Gifts to the Annual Fund support every aspect of an Ole Miss education. Yearly contributions from over 8,000 donors add up to more than $7 million for schools, colleges and programs across the Oxford campus. Alumni, friends, parents, faculty, staff and students choose the area to which they designate their gift.
“I always hope to bring together people’s passions with areas of need and causes that matter,” said Clark, who received a juris doctorate from the University of Florida in 2009. “Everyone has generosity within them that they want to fulfill. It’s a big part of my job to connect that drive to the needs of the university.”
Clark has no shortage of experience as he takes on this position. He began as a student worker in the Telefund program at the University of Florida before taking on professional fundraising positions at the University of Michigan, Humboldt State University and at his most recent workplace Texas State University. Each new experience has enhanced Clark’s fascination with the process and the purpose of fundraising for higher education.
“I love the balance between the rational side of strategic planning and the emotionally driven side that’s more creative and based on what people care about as human beings,” said Clark. “It creates significant leverage when people support a university because of the impact it has on the students and their futures. It’s not a one-time impact; it lasts forever.”
At Texas State, Clark spearheaded many profitable fundraising campaigns such as “Step Up for State,” a day of giving that raised over $220,000 in support of diverse campus initiatives. In addition, he managed direct mail appeals, the online giving portal, the fundraising call center and the faculty/staff giving campaign, which saw significant growth during his leadership.
“With experience at several respected universities, Wesley Clark brings outstanding expertise in annual giving, crowdfunding and day-of-giving programs to the Office of University Development,” said Robin Buchannon, associate vice chancellor for university relations. “We believe Wesley will be instrumental in developing new annual giving donors to help strengthen academic initiatives across our campus. Wesley’s strategic approach to annual giving – a bedrock of our fundraising efforts – will greatly benefit our schools and College of Liberal Arts.”
Clark and his wife, Angela, look forward to calling Oxford their new home: “Once I saw the opportunity, we did our research and (Oxford) seemed like a perfect fit. We love small-town communities and the connectedness that they allow community members to have.”
To learn more about supporting Ole Miss academic programs through the Annual Fund, contact Wesley Clark at 662-915-2293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Billy Rainey