About CASE
Laney Funderburk

This profile from the April 2004 edition of the BriefCASE Newsletter highlights the career of longtime volunteer Laney Funderburk 

Laney FunderburkLaney Funderburk, associate vice president of alumni affairs and development and director of alumni affairs at Duke University, is a CASE pioneer. His "CASE history" begins in 1960, when he joined the American Alumni Council, one of CASE's two predecessor organizations. Laney was a CASE trustee from 1995 to 1998 and a member of the Commission on Communications from 1993 to 1995; he served on the District III Board of Directors from 1989 until 2003, chairing the board from 1993 to 1995. He has been a member of the Council of Alumni Association Executives since 1989, and a member of CAAE's Board of Directors from 1996 to 2000. Laney will be retiring from Duke in December 2006 after 36 years of service.

Did you ever consider working for a university other than Duke?
No. Number one, the real opportunities in education advancement today are in fundraising and development. I've had opportunities to go into that elsewhere, and I wasn't sure I wanted to do that. Number two, I could never feel the kind of passion I feel for Duke at another school.

You joined Duke's staff when you graduated. How would you describe Duke's alumni programming at that time? What was the mission of the Department of Alumni Affairs?
I had a part-time job with alumni relations as a student for three years. The director of alumni relations hired me in my junior year, and I spent the summer between my junior and senior years almost as a professional member of the staff.

The mission really hasn't changed. I remember on our letterhead, the motto was: "Every alumnus in the service of Duke." That was the mission. The mission today according to our bylaws and mission statement is to involve alumni fully in the life of the university. We use the same tools, we have reunions, regional meetings, we publish a magazine, we arrange homecoming. This business hasn't changed that dramatically in the past 40 years. It's still about relationships, caring, taking your alumni seriously, and keeping the family together.

Outside of Duke University, you were also director of public information for the Duke Endowment, and in the '70s, assistant and chief of staff to the governor of North Carolina. How important do you think it is for advancement professionals to be cross-trained?
I think it gives you have a wider worldview, and it's helpful to see the world from several perspectives. If I had stayed at Duke and not taken the assignments with the governor or the Duke Endowment, I might have gotten the director's job based on longevity alone. But I believe I was a more valuable commodity with my other experiences.

Universities tend to be "siloed," and that's not a good thing. I think we all have to work to tear down the silos. Building relationships across the university, in the schools and colleges, is in many respects tougher than building relationships with alumni. I spend a good deal of time doing just that: building relationships and partnerships with my campus colleagues.

It's not always easy to achieve balance among disciplines that are separate, yet equally important. How good a job do you think CASE has done over the years in achieving that balance?
I believe the dynamics of what has been going on within the institutions-the preponderance of fundraising, capital campaigns, and the like-have driven the CASE agenda. My guess would be that the American College Public Relations Association [one of two CASE predecessor organizations] probably feels a little bit marginalized, just in terms of sheer numbers and in terms of programming at both the District and the Assembly level. It's a three-legged stool, but one leg is a lot longer than the other two. I'm not threatened or bothered by it, but I do worry a little that alumni programs seem to get lost in the shuffle.

Institutions need revenue, they need philanthropic dollars, and that need is so great that fund raising has become the driving force in advancement. When an institution is making the decision to spend money on alumni programs, or hire another fund raiser who can raise three or four times their salary, sometimes the management has to go with the fund raiser. It's tougher and tougher to keep a balance.

What have you enjoyed most about CASE?
I've often said that I must have been to more than 30 District meetings and probably 20 Assemblies, and I've never attended one where I didn't pick up a good idea or a suggestion that paid for my trip. I always felt enriched by what I learned and the people I met and the network of friends I've established. CASE is not just an office in Washington. It's people, it's a network, it's a learning opportunity, and I care very much about it.

Do you have a classic CASE moment you'd like to share?
I remember coming back to Duke after my sojourn in politics, and getting a District III newsletter that also listed the members of the board. I was horrified to note that there was not a single alumni director or alumni professional on the list of directors. And I thought, "It's come to this: the AAC was one of the founding organizations, and here we are in this district, 10 years later, and there's not a single alumni relations person on the board!" I banged on the table, wrote some letters, and I got on the board. I stayed on longer than most people-my service has spanned three decades, and now, part of two centuries and two millennia! How many people can say that?

After a 40-year career, what will you do in retirement?
I really don't know. I figure something will find me, the way my whole career has been. I haven't had to look very hard for something interesting and worthwhile to do, and I assume that will be the case now. But I'd like to slow down a bit and pick my causes.