The Colgate Scene
January 2003

People on the go

Joe Manhertz '96, recently promoted to director of development for athletics at Syracuse University, in the Carrier Dome. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
A sporting career

Former Raider basketball and football player Joe Manhertz '96 is working his way up in a field he didn't even know existed until he went to graduate school. He had applied for a graduate assistantship while pursing his M.A. in sport management at Ohio State University. The job was in the athletic development office.

"I had no idea what it meant, but I saw it and I loved it. I get to talk about two of my favorite things -- sports and money," he said, chuckling. Just five years later, he's become director of development for athletics at Syracuse University.

At universities with national-level sports programs, fundraising is an essential part of the operation. Athletics departments are self-supporting, and ticket sales alone won't cover the huge cost of athletics scholarships, facilities and team travel, not to mention gear and clothing for hundreds of athletes.

While in his assistantship at Ohio State, Manhertz gained a wide range of experience in development for athletics in a program that raised nearly $14 million that year. "Being part of an athletic department that went to two Sugar Bowls, a Final Four in basketball and a Final Four in hockey in a two-year span made me realize I enjoyed working in college athletics." A brief stint as the events service manager at the university's Jerome Schottenstein Center convinced him he'd rather be back in fundraising.

He joined SU's Orange Pack fundraising staff as associate director in April of 1999 and quickly distinguished himself as a talented fundraiser. While managing annual giving, Manhertz also handled major gift development for football and basketball, successfully securing $725,000 of the $1.3 million raised for Coach Jim Boeheim's recent basketball court naming endowment drive in Manley Field House, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars towards a major locker room renovation and other capital projects. Responsible for increasing donations to the football and basketball programs by 28 and 31 percent in his first full year, Manhertz was promoted to director in October 2002.

Being so young, Manhertz said that at first "it was tough getting credibility. But I've been able to do the right things to forge great relationships." He said it's "basically just being a good person, doing what you need to do, showing up early." His experience as a college athlete has also helped.

"People give me credibility without knowing me because I played football. I have my Colgate stuff plastered proudly on my walls. Some people from the old Colgate-Syracuse rivalries will walk into my office and say, `oh, you're a Colgate guy!'"

His athletics experience has also helped him perform in his job better. "I know about team dynamics and working with different people," he explained. "That's the intrinsic value of sport, whether it's football or volleyball."

The position, which Manhertz says is "different every day," puts him in contact with coaches, staff members from the university's central development and alumni relations offices, and representatives from foundations and matching gift companies. The majority of his work, though, is one-on-one with prospective donors who are loyal fans of SU athletics. "The tangibility of it is very nice," Manhertz said of their programs such as the preferred seating contribution plan for football and basketball. "Here we can say, `you can provide an opportunity for student athletes, and, you're getting great seats.' When teams are doing well and people are donating to the teams, it's almost as if donors can see a direct result of their gift to athletics."

Manhertz attends countless home and away games, walking the aisles and visting with prospects. Pre-game, there's always a flurry of activity as he responds to special requests for tickets and seating. It's helpful to be "quick on your feet, because a lot of things come up," he said. "I've been able to help a lot of people switch tickets and things of that nature." Just a few days before the Virginia Tech game, Manhertz said, "Right now we're dealing with a shortage of tickets. I've got 10 people that have ordered and I've got to find two more. I think I can. You've got to do a bunch of trading. That's the tough part of this job."

Another challenge he finds is that "when the teams are bad, you're the first person they call," he said. "People ask me what happened, but I'm not a coach, and there really isn't any inside information. I just tell them my thoughts."

Most rewarding, Manhertz said, is "helping people, making people feel good about giving, not just with seats but getting people access, getting people reconnected."

Manhertz is active in his community as well, as a member of the board of directors of It's About Childhood and Family, an advocacy group for children with learning disabilities and their families, and as a member of the Boys & Girls Club Touchdown Club.

Last year, SU's athletics director selected Manhertz to take part in the inaugural class of the NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Males, a 14-month program that teaches every aspect of running a college athletics department, from fundraising to compliance to scheduling.

"It was tremendous," said Manhertz, explaining that the program also focuses on leadership, communication and presentation skills as well as conflict resolution. "It will help me someday become an athletic director, because that's my ultimate goal." -- RAC

Lai Man Lee '97 and her academic advisor, Bruce Herbert '82, associate professor of geology and geophysics at Texas A&M [Photo by Mark Beal of Texas A&M University]
World citizen

Like Jefferson Smith, Lai Man Lee '97 wants to go to Washington.

As with Frank Capra's idealistic movie hero, Lee's ambition is to make a positive contribution to the crafting of public policy. But while Smith aimed to root out political corruption, Lee wants to raise the level of scientific understanding in the halls of power.

"If I had my wish there would be a science advisor on the staff of every senator or representative, because science and technology are moving ahead so fast that they have an impact on everybody's life every single day, if not every second," Lee said. "The people who make the legislative process work don't always have the luxury of having the kind of education that I have. I can't sit back, watch the news, get angry, and complain about some of the policies being made. I can think they make no sense because as a scientist some of these things are very illogical to me, but I can't get mad at them and not put myself in that position and try to do something about it."

But before heading off to work for a think tank or government agency, Lee must complete her doctorate in geology at Texas A&M University, where she has already earned an M.S. in that subject. As part of her coursework, Lee is also studying government and public affairs at the university's George Bush School of Government and Public Service.

"I've been thinking a lot about issues of national security and environmental issues, and I realized that a lot of places on Earth that are politically unstable are also places where the environment is also very unstable," said Lee. "There seems to be a dynamic interaction between these two very different areas of study."

The Middle East, Lee said, is one such region.

"The conflicts there are over issues of ideology, religion and politics, but people there fight just as much over water as they do about the differences in religion," she said.

Not surprisingly, Lee considers herself an environmentalist. "A lot of people think an environmentalist means `tree hugger' or some other stereotype," Lee said. "But I'm just a scientist who wants to understand the Earth."

Lee considers her strong beliefs about protecting the environment as part of what it means to be a world citizen and views Secretary of State Colin Powell as a role model of world citizenship.

"Even though he's a Republican and I'm a liberal Democrat, there is something about him that is very appealing to me in that he fights for global understanding," she said. "I think that to be a patriotic and dutiful United States citizen also means that we should be global citizens. That's what [Powell] personifies to me."

By coincidence, Lee's academic advisor at Texas A&M is Bruce Herbert '82. "Lai's curiosity is what separates her from other students. Her curiosity about a wide range of topics motivates her to relate disparate topics," Herbert said of Lee. "She also has really strong skills in critical analysis, writing and reasoning, which I attribute, in part, to her strong liberal arts training at Colgate."

The quality of her scholarship led Lee to be chosen for a 2002 National Science Foundation Summer Fellowship in Taiwan, where she worked on a project that used statistical analysis to answer questions regarding the natural sources of arsenic and other trace metals in groundwater. Lee, who was born in Hong Kong and raised in New York City, worked with a host advisor in Taiwan who is a specialist in spatial statistics and precision agriculture.

"Taiwan is such a small island nation geographically that you really have to make efficient use of space to survive there, so precision agriculture is a scientific research topic that's on everyone's mind there," said Lee. "I went because I wanted to experience the culture and science perspectives there, and I wanted to gain some expertise, knowledge and advice from my host advisor."

Lee, who teaches the lab section of an introductory geology course in addition to her research, expects to complete her doctorate by 2005. Although her academic demands leave her with very little spare time, Lee remains completely convinced that she has chosen the right path.

"I honestly don't think I would have done anything different," she said. "A Colgate liberal arts education has made me who I am and I don't find myself limited by much." -- GEF

Joanne Spigner '76 [Photo courtesy of Joanne Spigner]
The vision thing

Where there is no vision, organizations languish and stagnate.

That's the message Joanne Spigner '76 brings to businesses and nonprofits these days through her consulting business, VisionFirst, as well as through a weekly online radio program, "Invent the Future," which is webcast on

"What I enjoy doing is helping groups of people figure out what they are trying to accomplish," said Spigner, who co-hosts "Invent the Future" with her business partner, Janice Maffei. "What is their vision of the future? What will success look like to them? It has to be a vision shared among the whole group, no matter if it's a department, task force, school committee or nonprofit board."

A psychology major when at Colgate, Spigner said much of the impetus behind the "Invent the Future" was a desire to have a conversation about organizational issues that was "more than a 15-second sound bite."

"We wanted to be able to explore topics for the entire 50 minutes of time we have for the program, and really go deeper than a lot of media formats would allow," Spigner said. "It was a way for us to do this in a public forum and have some intriguing conversations with people in this sort of format."

Since its debut last January, the program's guests have included chief executives and authors discussing innovation, experts on employee motivation, entrepreneurs and academics. "It is extremely fun to do and our guests tell us they have a good time on the show," said Spigner. "It's great to be in a conversation with people that is interesting for us, interesting for our guests and hopefully interesting for our listeners as well."

When introduced through a mutual friend, Spigner and Maffei immediately realized they shared the same organizational values. The two women formed VisionFirst in 1999. Spigner, who earned an MBA in finance from NYU after graduating from Colgate, had more than 17 years of corporate experience, including a decade as a manager in Prudential's Corporate Finance Group. While at Prudential, Spigner worked a two-year stint in the company's human resources unit, specializing in work-life and career issues. It was during this time she recognized the "strategic issues of how people really work and how groups get things done or not."

When an organization or business has a shared vision, Spigner believes, the people within it are more committed, work smarter and are more enthusiastic about their roles. Conversely, a group lacking shared vision tends to have lower morale, is less committed to organizational success and works less efficiently.

She cited the example of a staff support unit of about 150 people within a major financial services company whose leader drafted a "brilliant" vision statement. "His people said, `Well, that's nice, but it doesn't really clarify things,'" said Spigner. "We encouraged the leadership to involve the entire group in asking `what is the most important thing we can do for the company? How are we going to add the most value?' In the end, the new vision statement wasn't a whole lot different than the leader's first version, but because everyone had a chance to touch it and craft it in their own way it felt like it was their priority."

Since then, Spigner said, the support unit has become more productive and efficient and has consistently had the highest level of employee satisfaction in the company. "They're successful partly because they have very strong leadership that does a lot of things right," she said. "But part of it is that the employees all feel that they understand what their role is, why they're doing what they're doing, and that they influenced some of the priorities of what their group is doing.

"I really like helping groups do the best work that they can do and that's part of how I see my role as the consultant," Spigner continued. "I'm not there to give them the answers. There is never one right answer, but I help them find an answer that makes them move forward and work differently and in more effective ways."

Spigner, who lives with her husband and their two sons in New Jersey, has been increasingly active on behalf of her alma mater in recent years, serving on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Corporation Board of Directors and chairing the board's Women's Advisory Committee.

"I continue to be a very strong believer in liberal arts and Colgate is a wonderful place because of how it prepares young people academically and in other ways as well, such as leadership development," Spigner said. "I also just enjoy the people affiliated with Colgate, whether it's students, faculty, staff or alumni. The only thing they really have in common is Colgate, but it never ceases to amaze me how talented, genuine and nice all these people are." -- GEF

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