Senior VP for Institutional Advancement Named Outstanding Fundraising Executive

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Association of Fundraising Professionals in Western Pennsylvania has named Jay Carson its 2015 Outstanding Fundraising Executive, a distinguished award given to one individual who serves as a catalyst for positive change and demonstrates a commitment to philanthropy. As senior vice president for institutional advancement, Carson has led a transformation of the university’s culture of philanthropy that has assisted in changing the lives of thousands of students.

Under Carson’s leadership, Robert Morris recently completed a comprehensive capital campaign that raised over $41 million, exceeding the campaign’s goal. Those funds assisted in building three new academic buildings for the School of Business, the School of Communications and Information Systems, and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

“Robert Morris has come a long way in regards to building its development and advancement programs, and I think Jay has had a real vision in doing that,” says Deborah Desjardins, associate vice president and campaign director for the office of institutional advancement at RMU.

The number of overall donors to the university has risen continuously during Carson’s tenure. President’s Council donors, who give at least $1,000 each year to Robert Morris, currently number 445, up from 74 when Carson started at RMU nine years ago. Moreover, the value of the university’s endowment has more than doubled over that time.

Carson has instilled a culture of giving at Robert Morris. He established a professional fundraising operation and put systems in place to give donors opportunities to give back in ways that are convenient for them. More than 50 percent of Robert Morris faculty and staff contribute to the university, he notes, more than he has seen at any other institution.

“I think the people here always had it within them,” says Carson. “The intention, ability, and compassion to give back was there; it was just making the right case and providing the opportunity and method for them.”

Carson spent 14 years at Carnegie Mellon University, rising to director of development for arts and humanities. He then worked at Family Resources, a United Way agency for child abuse prevention and treatment, and later became vice president for institutional advancement at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and St. Vincent College, successively.

“I was very lucky to be able to have my whole fundraising career established and pursued right here in Pittsburgh,” says Carson. “That’s a very rare thing and I’m really fortunate.”

Carson will be recognized on National Philanthropy Day on Thursday, November 15, at the Heinz History Center.

This is the second consecutive year that an individual with Robert Morris connections has won an award through the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2014 Jack and Margie McCartan received the Most Outstanding Philanthropists award for their service to the Pittsburgh community. McCartan’s father acquired Pittsburgh’s Robert Morris School in 1948 and brought Jack on board to help oversee the day-to-day operations. The McCartan family supports RMU through the J.R. McCartan Sr. Scholarship Fund, a four-year renewable scholarship available to accounting students.



Through 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate degree programs across five academic schools, Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh, Pa., works to change its students' lives so that they can go out and change the lives of others for the better. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate, nontraditional and online students from 47 states and 39 nations are enrolled at RMU, which sits on 230 scenic acres just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. Emphasizing experiential learning, Robert Morris focuses on professional development, service learning, global awareness, undergraduate research, campus leadership, and cultural experiences, all of which are documented on our innovative Student Engagement Transcript. More than 100 clubs and organizations help students to develop leadership skills, network professionally, and meet friends. RMU also has 16 NCAA Division I athletic programs, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and men's and women's lacrosse.




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