Class Agent Spotlight: May 2012

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Richard P. Dahling (MBA '87)

Why did you become a Class Agent?
I was asked! So while part of the answer was “duty,” equally important was believing it an honor to be considered for a leadership role in the Darden Alumni network. I also wanted to show appreciation for the extraordinary opportunity Darden gave me to learn not only about business, but also to learn a great deal about myself. 

Why is giving back to Darden important to you?
My family has a tradition of giving back to the undergraduate and graduate schools we attended so the importance of doing that for Darden was never a question. The difference in doing that, however, versus being a Class Agent represents my strong desire to make sure that Darden’s mission continues to remain at the forefront of graduate business education. Darden’s “learning model” was so superior to anything I had ever experienced and I want to make sure that the School has sufficient resources and alumni support to make it a game changer for others as much as it was for me.  

What advice would you offer a new Class Agent?
Initially I would undertake some fundamental analysis of the class: Are there geographic concentrations of class members? Who attended the last Reunion? How many are U.Va. undergrads? What is the level and trend of giving? 

I would also work closely with the Class Secretary who will have a network of class members he/she will be communicating with on a regular basis. The Class of ’87 is fortunate that Chris Padgett has been our Secretary since graduation. 

It’s also wise to recruit a small group of volunteers who can help make solicitations; their participation will make the Agent role seem less overwhelming. It’s especially important to have this support during Reunion years. 

Why do you give to the Darden Annual Fund?
There are two reasons: Firstly, as I am not involved in the day-to-day management of the School, I have limited knowledge of Darden’s shorter-term priorities. Supporting the Annual Fund is my way of giving Dean Bruner discretion to meet those short term objectives that can change from one year to the next. Secondly, annual fund giving is the best way to measure alumni support for the School and, importantly, is used as a metric to compare ourselves to other peer institutions. Many graduate schools have minimal support from alums for their annual fundraising campaigns; our alumni’s strong Annual Fund support is a key differentiator for Darden relative to our peer group. 

What has been your most successful fundraising strategy?
We have used Challenge gifts for the 20th and 25th Reunions to build both dollars raised and participation levels. Challenges are popular with our class due to their quantitative nature, performance mandate and deadlines. We are fortunate to have class members who have put up significant Challenge dollars to make this technique successful.

How long have you been a class agent?
I am now in my 10th year in the role.

What challenges have you overcome as a fundraising volunteer?
The fear of rejection. I was quite surprised at how receptive many class members have been to my “sales pitch.” Another is the necessity to stay fresh in the role and to create/communicate new messages each year so the class continues to stay engaged in the news of the School; if they do not “own” it, they will not support it!

What is one word to describe your Darden experience?
Any of these words work. Pick one: exhilarating, transformative, renewable.

What is your greatest memory from Darden?
The day – I cannot be specific – when I realized that “I got it,” meaning when all of it came together and made sense. Great boost to my confidence.

What Darden professor influenced you the most?
Impossible to answer because they all did.

What sets Darden apart from other graduate business schools?
"Excellence without the attitude” is a phrase that comes to mind. 

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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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