When Steven Knapp takes his seat as University president Aug. 1, alumni relations will be on the top of his to-do list.
Knapp, provost of Johns Hopkins University, was announced as Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s successor to the University’s top position last week. He has said that strengthening ties with alumni is one of his goals.
“Not every new president mentions how important that is in their first few words to the crowd,” Vice President for Advancement Laurel Price Jones said.
In his acceptance speech and in an interview with The Hatchet last week, Knapp said that improving connections with alumni will be one of his major concerns as GW’s 16th University president.
Knapp’s intended dedication toward alumni might not, however, translate into alumni dollar signs, Jones said.
“It’s not an automatic thing. It’s not ‘you name a new president and the money rolls in,'” she added.
More optimistic about a resurgence of alumni participation was Scott Mory, the assistant vice president for Advancement, Alumni Relations and Annual Giving.
“I’m confident that our alumni will heed (Knapp’s) call,” said Mory, although he did not mention donations specifically.
According to Mory, “a new president is always an occasion for alumni to reconnect with the University.
GW Alumni Association President Chris Young said that GW alumni need someone to bring them back on campus and that Knapp may be the person to do it.
“He’s more of an orchestrator,” said Young, who was part of the 14-member search committee which chose Knapp from a list of more than 100 applicants. “He’s someone that is going to bring the pieces together.”
According to Young, who received his undergraduate degree from GW in 1980 and his graduate degree from GW in 1983, about a third of GW’s alumni live in driving distance from the campus. Knapp said last week that 13,000 alumni live in D.C., 70,000 live in the greater metropolitan area and there are 220,000 alumni worldwide.
“We were pushing information out, but we weren’t really pulling in,” said Young, who will soon begin his second year as president of the Alumni Association. “We really wanted to pull alumni back to campus.”
Recent 2002 graduate Matthew Kernkraut said that he was eager about Knapp’s appointment, although current University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg did a lot for the University.
“I think that most alumni agree that President Trachtenberg had an incredible tenure as president,” said Kernkraut, adding that GW is in a different place than it once was.
“It’s time for the next 10 years of GW to begin,” said Kernkraut, who graduated with a degree in human services.
Trachtenberg has built up GW, Kernkraut said, “now it’s time for GW to fill those buildings.”
Monetary donations by alumni are not the only way Knapp will be soliciting alumni input.
“There is a huge concentration of alumni in the immediate area,” Knapp said in an interview with The Hatchet before Tuesday’s press conference. “Most people think of alumni because of philanthropy, but they can also provide a network for students to make connections.”
Knapp said he wants to get this relationship between students and alumni “seamlessly working.”
“I would like to see this University continue to be connected, to continue to mobilize our alumni and support us not only as contributors financially, which I look forward exploring, but also as advocates and provide a network for our students,” he said.
During his 11 years at JHU in Baltimore, Knapp was a part of several fundraising campaigns. The first was as a capital campaign he started while dean of the arts and sciences school which he began with a goal of raising $100 million. He finished by raising $230 million in addition to securing a naming gift for the school.
More recently as provost of JHU, officials there said Knapp was instrumental in securing a $50 million naming gift from a benefactor for the creation of a new school of business.
JHU is also in an ongoing campaign for a $3.2 billion endowment. GW’s endowment is on the cusp of breaking $1 billion.
-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.