Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2014

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Q+A: William Boldt

William Boldt starts Sept. 10 as UNLV's vice president of advancement, making him the university's second-highest ranking cheerleader behind President David Ashley.

Ashley hired Boldt, 59, who arrives by way of the University of California, Riverside, and California Polytechnic State University, to reorganize UNLV's many external relations efforts into one coordinated push to advance the university's interests.

As vice president of advancement, Boldt assumes leadership over fundraising, media relations, government and community relations, communications and marketing.

Boldt spent the past three years overhauling UC Riverside's advancement division, instituting a comprehensive accountability system for fundraising and nearly quadrupling the amount of giving to the university. He also secured a $17.5 million charitable trust to provide 15 endowed professor positions at Riverside - an accomplishment Ashley would like repeated at UNLV. The former nutrition professor and assistant dean at Cornell University had similar success at Cal Poly.

Boldt joins the university during its year long 50th anniversary celebration and the tail end of a $500 million fundraising campaign that still has $155 million to go in the next 17 months. He recently sat down with the Sun.

I don't know how you can have an effective development program without first having an effective media relations program, communications program and alumni program, because it all works together. We are trying to tell the story of UNLV, build relationships and let our stakeholders and investors know the university's impact so they'll become as excited as we are.

What's your take on handling the media?

I learned everything I know about working with the media from a former reporter, editor and publisher. My philosophy is to be very open with the press. If there is something we have that is breaking news, positive or negative, we are going to let you know about it. I don't know how to work it any other way. And now they've hired me and they are stuck with that philosophy.

What's first on your agenda?

The first thing I want to do is bring some teams together who haven't interacted on a regular basis. I want to know what motivates people in the team, what their accomplishments are, what their vision would be.

Next will be to fill the associate vice president of communications position, who will oversee communications, marketing and media relations for me.

You had several job offers besides UNLV. What led you here?

I see a lot of potential - in the university, in the leadership, in the staff. One thing that impressed me was the dedication of the foundation trustees. When a major developer takes a whole day off to interview me, that's impressive. Also , the progress of the campaign, given the size of the staff and the resources put into it, is very, very impressive.

The manner in which UNLV has counted gifts to that campaign has been controversial, particularly because staff were not reporting how much was in estate bequests. Should future estate gifts be counted?

Future gifts is an essential part of any campaign, but it should be restricted to no more than 30 percent of the total. You have to be transparent about how you count gifts, and UNLV should let people know what is coming down the pipeline, both currently and in the future.

UNLV hasn't advertised many of its gifts.

And that is something I want to work with donors to change. My biggest marketer for gifts is those who have already made them. You have to be sensitive to what the donor wants, but I'm a pretty good motivator.

How do you plan to drum up more support for UNLV?

You have to get people on campus to meet professors and see the research. I didn't get excited about UNLV until I came on campus. You can inundate people with wonderful publications, but getting them on campus is the frosting on the cake. Each college needs to have a strong central person communicating all the good work they are doing.

How would you assess UNLV's public image?

The name recognition is good, but we need to strengthen UNLV's academic brand, what people think of when they think of UNLV. It's been known for its basketball and it is viewed as an emerging institution for research and academics, but it needs to be better defined. If we don't get the word out about our successes, people are not going to be as generous financially.

How do you get alumni more involved?

I always tell young alumni that if they see someone like me in 20 years, that they've made it. That you've accumulated enough wealth that we are going to talk to you about how to distribute that. And they all laugh.

Students need to understand that they are only paying a fraction of their costs, and it is important to give back for later generations. That has to start with freshmen.

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