Fresno State fundraising 'trailblazer' to retire

The Fresno BeeDecember 14, 2013 

After two decades of leading the university's fundraising, communications and alumni relations, the man at the helm of those efforts has announced he will leave next year.

Peter Smits is retiring as vice president of the University Advancement division, which focuses on managing relationships with constituents to increase university support.

He has helped bring in some big money: more than $214 million over a seven-year fundraising campaign that wrapped up this year.

It was the second-largest fundraising campaign in the California State University system. And Fresno State landed the largest cash gift — $29.4 million — in the history of the system.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro called Smits a trailblazer and the "dean" of his profession. He is the longest-serving vice president in his role throughout the CSU system.

"His advice and counsel are regularly sought by his colleagues throughout the state and nation," Castro said.

Smits plans to retire at the end of June. Castro said earlier this month that a nationwide search for Smits' successor will begin as soon as possible.

Smits' retirement is the fourth departure this year from among the university's top ranks, including President John Welty, Provost William Covino and Vice President of Student Affairs Paul Oliaro.

Interim vice presidents have been appointed to fill the vacancies left by Covino and Oliaro as the search for their replacements continues.

In his retirement, Smits, 66, plans to spend more time writing, consulting and working with the Commission on Philanthropy for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), of which he is a member.

He plans to lead nationwide research about philanthropy to support schools.

Smits said fundraising has become "more important than ever" for education.

"When I came to Fresno State, more than 90% of the budget was from Sacramento," he said. "Now, less than 50% is from Sacramento."

Smits has spent his 44-year career in higher education. Previously, he worked at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Louisiana State University in Shreveport; State University of New York, College at Brockport; and The College of White Plains in New York.

"I'm really going to miss the team," Smits said of his colleagues at Fresno State. "I've had the chance to meet some wonderful people who believe in the university."


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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