Meet Your Chair
Rebecca Tseng Smith
Rebecca Tseng Smith is the senior executive director of development for the University of California San Diego.
Previously, she served as vice president of development for the University of Hawai'i Foundation and associate dean for external relations at Stanford University's School of Education. Smith believes that the ideas of relational fundraising, as described by David R. Dunlop, provide the best principles to guide our practice, and she has had an opportunity to put these ideas to work at each of the universities she has served.
At Cornell University, she worked in the major and principal gift programs and later served as assistant dean for alumni affairs and development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Cornell's $1 billion campaign for endowment was launched and completed during her years there and she participated in many different aspects of it, from developing strategies for the solicitations of lead givers and recruiting and motivating campaign volunteers to celebrating in the College of Agriculture when they completed the campaign at 45 percent over goal. In 1997, she joined the major gift program at Harvard University where she worked with alumni in New York City and Washington, D.C., and assisted with Harvard's campaign to raise $2.1 billion. At Stanford University she led the School of Education's participation in "The Stanford Challenge," which raised new funds directed toward solving complex problems, like K-12 school reform.
Smith served on the American Cancer Society's National Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee, which studied and advised the society on its fundraising practices and long-term goals.
She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature and a master's degree in theology at Boston University. She spent her first undergraduate years at Eckerd College, a small liberal arts college in Florida.
Bennie L. Harris
Dr. Bennie L. Harris serves as Senior Vice President at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA and is responsible for institutional advancement, partnership expansion and external affairs.
Harris holds the bachelor of sciences degree in industrial engineering from Mississippi State University, the MBA in strategic marketing from Washington State University and a doctorate of philosophy in educational leadership and marketing from the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has held leadership positions in institutional advancement at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Washington State University. Over the course of his advancement career, he has raised more than $346 million. Also, while at Washington State University, he served as the director for the Center for Human Rights. Harris has worked with a number of organizations facilitating conversations and strategic plans around leadership development, diversity, healthcare and health equity.
Dr. Harris is involved in several local and national organizations such as Leadership Atlanta, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Executive Director of Phi Beta Sigma International Leadership Academy, Atlanta Chapter of the Susan G. Komen Board of Directors, Lipscomb University Board of Trustees, America Association of Medical Colleges Development Council, CASE Faculty, among a few. Harris is frequently sought to speak on fundraising, strategic planning, diversity and leadership development at various nonprofits, higher education and other institution seeking to improve and build capacity.
Dr. Harris is married to Frankie Andrea Harris and together they have three adult children, Bria, Bennie II, and Branden.
Leti McNeill Light
Leti McNeill Light is a leader in transformational higher education philanthropic partnerships, often in the form of cross-cutting, multidisciplinary initiatives.
As Executive Director, Principal Gifts & Strategic Initiatives at UC Berkeley, Leti and her team collaborate with a wide range of academic and program leaders, and work with the world’s leading philanthropists to achieve their vision through partnerships with the university. Over the last 20 years, Leti has led philanthropic development efforts at Cornell University, UCLA, and now UC Berkeley.
Leti is also the President of SIGAP, the Strategic Initiatives Group for Advancement Professionals. SIGAP is a national community organized by and for fundraising professionals dedicated to securing transformational support for large-scale institutional priorities, interdisciplinary research initiatives, institutes, and centers. She also serves on the boards of directors for Coro Northern California and the Headlands Center for the Arts.
Ronald J. Schiller
Ron Schiller is a nationally recognized advisor to presidents, chief advancement officers, board members, and other leaders and emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector. Since 2011, he has focused his attention on executive search, strategic consulting, writing, and speaking about philanthropy, drawing on his experience as fundraising leader, executive team member, board member, and search consultant built over a 30-year career.
Ron has held leadership positions in seven educational and cultural institutions, including the University of Chicago, where he led a team of more than 450 that completed a $2.3 billion campaign and facilitated two nine-figure gifts. He serves on the faculty of the annual CASE conference, "Inspiring the Largest Gifts of a Lifetime" and has served as co-chair of CASE's Winter Institute for Chief Development Officers. He is the author of four books: The Chief Development Officer: Beyond Fundraising (Rowman & Littlefield); Belief and Confidence: Donors Talk About Successful Philanthropic Partnership (CASE), Raising Your Organization's Largest Gifts: A Principal Gifts Handbook (CASE), and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Advancement: A Guide to Strengthening Engagement and Fundraising Through Inclusion (CASE), co-authored with Angelique Grant. He is a regular speaker for regional and national conferences of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, CASE, the League of American Orchestras, and gift planning organizations, among others, and he is a recipient of CASE’s Crystal Apple Teaching Award.
Ron has served on the Cornell University Council and on the boards of the American Friends of Covent Garden, Chicago's Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the Cornell University Glee Club, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Aspen’s Buddy Program, the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, the Salt Bay Chamberfest, and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.
Prior to founding the Aspen Leadership Group, he served as President of the NPR Foundation, Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development at the University of Chicago, and in various leadership roles at Carnegie Mellon University, Northeastern University, New England Conservatory of Music, and the Eastman School of Music. He began his career in philanthropy at Cornell during the university’s groundbreaking $1.25 billion campaign in the late 1980s.
Ron earned a bachelor’s degree at Cornell University.
Robert F. Sharpe Jr.
Robert F. Sharpe, Jr. is a nationally recognized leader and authority in the field of philanthropy. During more than three decades of service to thousands of America’s nonprofits, he has consulted with educational, health, social service, arts and religious organizations and institutions in the planning and implementation of their major, planned gift and endowment development efforts. He has mentored many of the nation’s leading nonprofit executives whose efforts have raised tens of billions of dollars that have helped fuel the transformation of the American experience.
An honors graduate of Vanderbilt University and Cornell Law School, he served as a development officer for a liberal arts college prior to practicing law with a major law firm specializing in taxation and estate planning.
Robert has been a pioneer in the area of “blended gifts” beginning in 1995 when he coined the term as part of a presentation at the national conference of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGA).
Robert is chair of the philanthropy editorial board of Trusts & Estates magazine and co-author of the CGP Model Standards of Gift Valuation. He has served on the board of Giving USA and on a number of strategic task forces for the CGP. He currently serves as an Advisory Council member for the Alliance for Charitable Reform in its efforts to preserve and expand favorable tax treatment for charitable gifts.
Heather Coleman Trippel
After receiving her doctorate in political science from Purdue University, Heather Trippel began her career in academic advancement, working closely with alumni and donors as a major gift officer at the University of Chicago and, subsequently, at her alma mater, Santa Clara University.
In 2006, she joined the External Relations team at the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) where she focused on building the school's major gift portfolio and was responsible for managing the school's volunteer advisory council. In 2008, she was appointed director of development for the Stanford Initiative on Improving K-12 Education as part of the $6.2 billion dollar "Stanford Challenge," a comprehensive and interdisciplinary capital campaign. After serving the GSE as the director of development from 2012, Trippel became the associate dean of external relations in 2016.
Ambassador Ronald P. Spogli
Ronald P. Spogli is the former United States Ambassador to the Italian Republic and to the Republic of San Marino. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 30, 2005 and served until February 6, 2009. In 2008, he received the Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service, the only honor given by the State Department to a political appointee ambassador.
In 1983, together with Bradford M. Freeman, Spogli founded Freeman Spogli & Co., one of the leading middle market private equity investors in the United States. Based in Los Angeles and with offices in New York, Freeman Spogli & Co. has invested in 59 companies with aggregate values of over $22 billion. In the course of his activities, Ambassador Spogli has served on the board of directors of over twenty companies and organizations, including the Investment Committee at California Institute of Technology, and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Currently, he serves on the Boards of Trustees of The J. Paul Getty Trust, Public Storage, the W. M. Keck Foundation, the Center for American Studies in Rome, Italy, and of White Bridge Investments, an Italian investment company.
As a result of his university and life experiences, Ambassador Spogli is a champion of international studies and dedicated supporter of his alma mater, Stanford University, where he has endowed two university positions: the Gesue and Helen Spogli Professorship in Italian Studies and The Spogli Family Overseas Studies Director position at the Florence, Italy campus. Together with his business partner and friend for over thirty-five years, Bradford M. Freeman, he endowed The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI). FSI is a university-wide research and education institution at Stanford devoted to understanding the problems, policies, and processes that cross international borders and affect lives around the world. Through its interdisciplinary faculty and its 12 centers and research programs, the Institute advances knowledge and understanding of governance, health policy, migration, development, security, and the dynamics of regions such as Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The Institute's faculty lead interdisciplinary research programs, educate graduate and undergraduate students, and organize policy outreach that engages Stanford in solving some of the world's most pressing problems.
A California native, Ambassador Spogli received his A.B. in history from Stanford University in 1970 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year. He earned an MBA degree at Harvard Business School in 1975. Having lived and worked abroad in Florence and Milan for two years during his time at Stanford, he became fluent in Italian and developed a keen interest in international affairs.
Ambassador Spogli was born in Los Angeles on March 25, 1948 and is married to Georgia Beth Caudle. They have two children.