As the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic at the Australian National University from 2012 to 2019, Marnie Hughes-Warrington was instrumental in two of the most transformative gifts in Australian higher education history: the Kambri campus redevelopment and the Tuckwell Scholarship gift.
Today, as the Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Enterprise at the University of South Australia, the renowned professor of history and philosophy says philanthropy has become as essential to her career as her academic scholarship.
It wasn’t always that way. Like many academicians, Hughes-Warrington’s foray into philanthropy started with trepidation. As a new administrator, she was asked to meet with a donor who was interested in making a legacy gift.
“I went into it with all the stereotypes, thinking I was going to have to ask for money,” she recalls. Instead, she found herself mesmerized as the woman described her faraway memories of a Sydney beach.
“She painted a story of where she came from. Her description was so vivid I could see the color of the sky. She was inviting me into her life,” says Hughes-Warrington. “I quickly realized that before donors ever give you financial support, they offer you gifts through insights into their lives. That trust and that connection are so much of what philanthropy is about.”
In June 2022, Carmenita Higginbotham, Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, U.S., was on the receiving end of a $5 million gift to her school. The gift will create three endowed funds aimed at exploring themes of social justice through theater education.
“The donor’s interests were very much in line with our school’s vision. It is a beautiful coming together,” says Higginbotham, an art historian known for exploring social justice, race, and urban culture in her own work. Her scholarly work was among the factors that led the donor to VCU.
“We are so excited to form a relationship with our donor as we steward this tremendous gift,” says the dean, who values her development colleagues with as high regard as her faculty, program chairs, and students.
As with Hughes-Warrington, it wasn’t always that way. When she became chair of the art department at the University of Virginia, fundraising was in the job description.
“Did I hesitate? Was I fearful? Oh, absolutely. I was not prepared for it,” says Higginbotham. “I was lucky with the support I received from our development team. They were masterful at understanding the emotions that are attached to giving. They helped me learn the nuances of listening to a donor. And, surprisingly to me, philanthropy would come to be a gratifying aspect of my position.”