College Announces VP for Advancement


Office of Communications

Michael Grzesiak

Last Friday, the Office of Communications announced via email Michael Grzesiak’s appointment to the vice president for advancement position. The position is currently held in an interim capacity by Rachel Smith Silver, who stepped in following Bill Barlow’s retirement in June.

The search committee — led by President Carmen Twillie Ambar and consisting of faculty, staff, and a student senator — conducted a nationwide search for the position.

“We are excited about Mike because of the experience and knowledge he will bring to the position,” wrote Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education Natalie Winkelfoos, who sat on the search committee, in an email to the Review. “He’s a great fit for Oberlin at this time! Mike will be a great collaborator, ambassador, and leader for our community.”

Currently, Grzesiak is vice president for development and alumni engagement and chief of staff at Washington & Jefferson College. During his tenure at Washington & Jefferson, Grzesiak led a campaign that raised $100 million for the endowment, capital improvements, and other funds; he also spearheaded a $32 million dollar campaign to build a new science center.

College third-year and Student Senator Patrick Powers who also sat on the committee, feels that Grzesiak’s experience at a small, private college makes Grzesiak the ideal candidate for the job.

“We were looking for people who understand the liberal arts specifically — that’s one of the places where I think Mike is really strong,” Powers said. ”We’re looking for somebody who understands liberal arts and already understands the industry-wide place that we’re in.”

Before working for Washington & Jefferson, Grzesiak, a native of Northeast Ohio, worked as the Cleveland Foundation’s director of gift planning. Grzesiak attended Hiram College for his undergraduate studies and received his Master’s degree in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University in 2008.

A key part of Grzesiak’s role at Oberlin will be fundraising for the initiatives laid out in the One Oberlin plan that resulted from last year’s Academic and Administrative Program Review. The plan highlights the College’s continued financial support of academic offerings in the College and Conservatory, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, financial aid, and the residential experience.

“The One Oberlin plan lays out some other areas for investment, such as integrated concentrations, career communities, intensive Winter Term experiences, and the work to ensure a more robust collaboration between the College of Arts & Sciences and the Conservatory,” Ambar wrote in an email to the Review. “These areas will be an important part of our focus for fundraising and advancement work. I am pleased that Mike will be leading us in these efforts.”

Grzesiak feels ready and eager to lead future capital campaigns in his new role.

“Leading a team of dedicated and talented advancement professionals who build, foster, and strengthen relationships with Oberlin’s alumni, parents, students, and friends is gratifying work,” Grzesiak wrote. “As we look to the future, I am excited to prepare for Oberlin’s next comprehensive campaign that will help ensure a strong future for this great institution.”

Oberlin’s last comprehensive fundraising campaign was a seven-year initiative led by Barlow, known as Oberlin Illuminate. The program surpassed its $250 million fundraising goal 18 months ahead of schedule, in fiscal year 2014, and raised over $317 million by the time the campaign ended in June 2016.

Grzesiak’s ability to strategically engage alumni and other donors will be key to the success of upcoming fundraising campaigns.

“I think there’s a feeling that President Ambar, from coming to Oberlin, doing AAPR, having these recommendations, is trying to build a really strong and consistent and cohesive foundation upon which you can then do a really successful campaign,” Powers said. “To do a campaign, you need to have a really clear set of priorities.”

Grzesiak will begin work at Oberlin on Jan. 1.