Class Agent Spotlight: December 2011

Gary Wilhite headshot

Gary Wilhite (MBA '84)

Why did you become a Class Agent?
The previous Class Agent asked me to take his place. People are often open to helping if they are asked. It was an opportunity to be involved with Darden and to develop some skills that I had not used before. 

Why is giving back to Darden important to you?
Darden prepared me well for my career, and the School’s success reflects well on me and other alumni. 

What advice would you offer a new Class Agent?
It doesn’t take as much effort as you might think. But it does take some effort, as does anything worthwhile. Your approach can fit your personality – some people fit better with personal calls, others e-mails, others something else. I think the focus can differ, although all are useful. 

Why do you give to the Darden Annual Fund?
I know that tuition alone cannot fund the School, and that was true when I was a student, too. Now it’s time to give something back. 

What has been your most successful fundraising strategy?
I send e-mails fairly often, especially as we get to the end of the year. I try to provide some news in these, but I don’t expect that they will “sell” anyone on giving. I’m simply trying to put the opportunity to give in front of them. Many have told me they intend to give, but they put it off and then forget – I do that with other things. If they get an e-mail with a link to give, it makes it easy to act. 

I will post a two sample e-mails to the recently created Darden Class Agent group on LinkedIn. I suggest all Agents join the group. 

How long have you been a Class Agent?
Since 2008. My first full year was a reunion year. 

What challenges have you overcome as a fundraising volunteer?
Before I started, asking people for money was not something I saw myself doing. But it’s not like you have to persuade most alumni to contribute to Darden – they understand that it’s a great school and that giving is a way to stay connected and support the School. I’ve become more comfortable each year. 

How do you talk to your classmates about giving?
If I call, people know why. I don’t tend to have a long conversation when I call, and I don’t go into a sales pitch. I simply ask that they support the School again, and most are willing to do so. I think it helps that I’ve been in touch with them throughout the year via e-mail. 

Why did you choose Darden?
I liked the idea of a case method school, and it was a fantastic value at the time. 

Tell us about your last Reunion experience.
It was great to spend time with friends I don’t get to see very often. There were several people there who I haven’t seen since we were students. It was interesting to see how people had changed – and how they hadn’t. 

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If you wish to volunteer as a Class Agent or have questions about ways to volunteer for Darden, please contact us at dardenannualfund@darden.virginia.edu.

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