Schmitt Shoots!!
Joanne Libertone Gocek ’81, G’00 is a fund-raising pioneer at SU. She broke new ground in the University’s efforts to increase external support when she became head of the newly created Parents Giving Program in 1994. “Other universities such as Cornell, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Duke have well-established parents giving programs,” Gocek says. “But this was uncharted territory for SU—I set up our parents giving program from scratch.”
      Under Gocek’s leadership, the Parents Giving Program raised $764,882 from non-alumni parents of current undergraduate students in fiscal year 2000-01. She worked with a committee of 25 parent-couple volunteers who helped her appeal to other SU parents for charitable donations. “This year we exceeded our fund-raising goal by 18 percent,” Gocek says. “The Parents Giving Program has exceeded its goal every year because parents know their gifts directly benefit current students and produce immediate results.”
      Gocek says the University relies on contributions from parents, alumni, corporations, and foundations to help bridge the gap between tuition and the cost of educating students. “Tuition covers only about 79 percent of the actual cost of providing each of our students with a quality education,” Gocek says. “Dollars raised through the Parents Giving Program provide unrestricted income to be used wherever Chancellor Shaw sees the greatest need.”
      Thanks to the Parents Fund, SU recently installed network wiring and updated computer and technical equipment in all University residence halls; invited guest lecturers to campus; acquired new library books; initiated special academic programs; purchased new laboratory and educational technology equipment for classrooms; and expanded student support services. Parents also support SU’s individual schools and colleges, the Parents Office Special Needs Fund, the Scholarship Fund, and the Library Fund.
      As a former SU student, Gocek knows the impact of such gifts. She studied advertising and marketing at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications before working in media and consumer goods sales. She says her sales experience taught her how to ask for things without fear of rejection. She also credits her graduate education in public administration at the Maxwell School with teaching her how to build positive relationships with different kinds of people—the key to any successful fund-raising effort. "The most rewarding part of my job is the warm relationships I’ve established with students and parents over the years,” Gocek says. “They’re like my extended family.”
     Gocek believes an important part of her role as senior director of the Parents Giving Program is to create a friendly and caring community for students and their parents. In fact, parents with whom she has developed a close personal relationship often ask her to help keep their children on the straight and narrow. “Freshmen can be very fragile because they’re overwhelmed by college life—academic and social turmoil, noisy residence halls, heartbreaks,” she says. “I enjoy helping students mature into self-confident young adults, and I like to think I’ve had an influence on them for the better.”
      Gocek sees herself as an anomaly in the world of institutional advancement at SU because she is the only development officer who works directly with non-alumni parents. “It takes a lot of gumption to ask parents for money,” she says. “I’m not shy about it because I know my work will help SU achieve its vision of becoming the nation’s leading student-centered research university.”

—Christine Yackel

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