Dr. Vance T. Peterson
Dr. Vance T. Peterson

The head fundraiser for Cal State Northridge has resigned after falling short of fundraising goals last year.

Vance T. Peterson, vice president of advancement and president of the CSUN Foundation, stepped down Monday after a five-year term.

"I have resigned from CSUN," Peterson told the Daily News. "You know there's never a perfect time to part company with a place that you respect, love and admire.

"The university is in really good shape - and the fundraising campaign is on track to bring in $9 million before the end of the calender year."

On Tuesday, university President Dianne F. Harrison named William Jennings, former dean of the College of Business and Economics, to replace Peterson as interim vice president of advancement.

A search for a permanent top fundraiser will begin shortly and is expected to be done by spring, she said.

"Dr. Jennings is known as a veteran of campuswide collaborative leadership efforts," Harrison said in an email announcement. "He brings a talent for consensus building and thorough knowledge of the campus and the San Fernando Valley."

While university officials said Peterson officially tendered his resignation, others say he was asked to resign, effective immediately.

"He called me up and said he was leaving the university," said David Honda, a past chairman of the foundation and current board member. "He said he was asked to resign.


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Peterson was hired five years ago to run University Advancement, which includes alumni, government and community relations, marketing, Web management, the foundation and special events.

Its chief task is fundraising.

A 33 percent plunge in state funding since 2007 has forced the university to raise 70 percent of its income through tuition, fees and private gifts.

The CSUN Foundation also supplements Harrison's $324,500 income by paying her $30,000 more than her predecessor.

Last year, CSUN took in $11.4 million in donations - 30 percent short of its $13 million goal, Peterson told the Daily News last month.

"As we turn the corner from a state-supported university to a state-assisted institution, we will need (donations) more than ever," Peterson said.

He said it was especially hard to elicit checks of between $50 and $250 from average alumni or donors.

But since summer, there's been a surge of large donations. Since July 1, Peterson helped raise $6.2 million, nearly half given by an anonymous couple toward middle-class student scholarships. Another verbal pledge was made for $1.5 million.

"Just the act of writing a check tells your alma mater that you care," Peterson said.

Peterson, who replaced Judy Knudson, was a past president of the global Council for Advancement and Support of Education, based in Washington, D.C. He was also past president of Sierra Nevada College and had held senior advancement positions at UCLA, USC and Occidental College.

Thomas McCarron, vice president for administration and finance, declined to discuss details of the resignation, saying it was a personnel issue.

"Hopefully, President Harrison is going to have an interim vice president (of advancement) very shortly," McCarron said. "Under Vance's leadership, the advancement team has had a positive impact on the lives of our students."

Honda credited Peterson with turning around CSUN's advancement department by instituting financial controls, checks and balances, as well as goals for his fundraising staff.

"He was a good administrator," said Honda, who said the resignation came without warning. "I think that he was a good man.

"He will be sorely missed."