Class Agent Spotlight: Leslie Tarkington


Leslie Tarkington (MBA '69)

Why is giving back to Darden important to you?
When I attended Darden, the graduate business school was highly regarded, although relatively new. My MBA opened doors and provided perspective that I would not have had otherwise. I want the stature of the School to reflect the best in its field.

What advice would you offer a new class agent?
Increase your level of personal contact with as many classmates as possible. Ask other Annual Fund supporters to assist if they have better access to individual classmates.

Why do you give to the Darden Annual Fund?
I support the Annual Fund as a way to give back and thank Darden for the business foundation provided. I want to ensure that others will have similar opportunities. And, I want Darden to be the best and know our dollars and support help.

What has been your most successful fundraising strategy?
I have varied my strategy to adapt to the requirements of the development leadership and staff, and to personalize that to my class. I write individual notes to my classmates on each letter, make phone calls and work, particularly in reunion years with the class secretary. I also developed a one-page form with all my classmates listed that accompanies the letter with the most current e-mail address, preferred phone number and a column to indicate whether the classmate has given in the current fiscal year, and if the donation is at the Darden Society level. In every letter I encourage classmates to stay in touch with each other, the class secretaries and me.

How long have you been a class agent?
I have been a class agent for eight years. Prior to that position, I was a class secretary for one year.

What challenges have you overcome as a fundraising volunteer?
There was no discussion of an annual fund or annual giving when we graduated. My classmates value their time at Darden, the friendships that developed during the two years and their successes thereafter. I have worked to share the importance of annual giving to supplement the operating budget and to further evidence the continuing alumni commitment.

How do you talk to your classmates about giving?
I link our experiences that we had at Darden with the current success of Darden, particularly its global recognition, and the similarity in background and demeanor of Darden’s successful Dean Bob Bruner to Dean Abbott. Also, we are fortunate that faculty members that arrived with our class remain at Darden today.

What have you found is the best way to stay connected with your classmates?
Reunions without question.

Why did you choose Darden?
I chose Darden because it used the case method of teaching. I expected the experiences of learning from the teamwork of study groups and class participation would accelerate the business learning experience and prepare me best for the business world.

What is one word to describe your Darden experience?

What is your greatest memory from Darden?
Tough work, but demanding, caring faculty who wanted Darden and its students to succeed.

Which Darden professor influenced you the most?
I was fortunate to have taken Dean Charlie Abbott’s Financial Institutions seminar. Others provided memorable classroom experiences and invaluable perspective including Professors Borden, Coleman, Colley, Forbes, Horniman, Roach, Sihler, Smith and Vandell. Coffees were important and since our classes were smaller, there were many opportunities to know the faculty members, including those who taught other sections or courses.

Tell us about your last reunion experience.
Our reunion success has been attracting a substantial percentage of class participation. At the end of our last two reunions, most have wanted to gather together more frequently than in five year intervals.

What sets Darden apart from other graduate business schools?
Darden distinguishes itself by encouraging faculty, staff and alumni to retain the Darden network. As students, the close relationships established in Charlottesville through study groups and other class and extracurricular team work continue throughout our lifetimes.



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