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Veteran fund-raiser fills key development post

June 21, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Following a national search, Western Michigan University has hired Tracy Branson, a professional fund-raiser with nearly 20 years of experience in higher education management, to serve as associate vice president for development. She began her duties April 3.

Branson's major responsibilities include operational direction of the fund-raising staff and working with other university officials, faculty and staff members and volunteer leaders in establishing priorities for private funding and strategies for achieving those priorities. She also has direct fund-raising duties, especially in the area of major gifts. In her new post, she reports to Bud Bender, vice president for development, and she fills the vacancy created by the 2005 resignation of Kenneth J. DeVries.

"Tracy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to WMU," says Bender, who worked with Branson in fund-raising 20 years ago at the University of Missouri. "She brings a genuine enthusiasm and optimism to everything she does. Those personal qualities have served her well in her career, and they will serve WMU very well as we move forward."

Branson began her fund raising career as manager of annual giving at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she also earned a bachelor's degree in English and business administration. Over the past 15 years, she has served as the senior development officer at three small private colleges in Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois. Most recently, she was vice president for institutional advancement at McMurray College, where she had executive responsibility for development, alumni relations and public relations.

At Westminster College in Missouri, Branson also had responsibility for the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library, because it played a major role in the college's public image and international reputation. Westminster was the site of Churchill's famous 1946 speech, in which he coined the phrase "Iron Curtain" to describe the Soviet Union's absolute control of Eastern Europe. The college used that event to create a facility and program, which now attract to its campus visitors and scholars from around the world.

"Each of my previous jobs has involved some unique asset like the Churchill Library," says Branson, "and that has given me an appreciation for the value of distinctive and innovative programs at a college or university. It is often the unique assets of the institution that get the attention of those people who have never heard of the school, and that's when you get to tell them the rest of the story."

In part because of her job responsibilities and also personal interests, Branson has been active in a variety of organizations in each of the communities where she has lived, including Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, museums, film festivals, Boy Scouts of America and several charities.

Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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