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Longtime Missouri State University fundraising executive Brent Dunn has agreed to stay on board after previously announcing his retirement from the higher education institution.
Dunn told Springfield Business Journal that MSU President Clif Smart convinced him to stay by offering a retention package and noting that he's seeking continuity of leadership as he prepares for his own retirement. Smart has said his current contract at the university, which runs through June 2026, likely would be his last.
"It was one of those tough decisions, but for me and my family and our future, it made sense to accept that offer," Dunn said.
Dunn said he and Smart found it important to keep fundraising and alumni engagement stable during any leadership transitions. Zora Mulligan started last year in the No. 2 role to Smart, amid two high-profile retirements: Frank Einhellig as its provost and Jim Baker as vice president for research and economic development and international programs, according to past reporting. Officials have said Mulligan may be the heir apparent to Smart.
Dunn is retaining his titles as executive director of the MSU Foundation and vice president of university advancement, he said. Previously, he had planned to exit MSU on Aug. 1 and start this summer as director of development for the Missouri State Fair Foundation.
"They were very understanding," he said of the fair foundation. "They know I'll do what I can to find a replacement. It was a new position."
At MSU, Dunn said he would maintain his annual salary of $175,000, plus receive incentive pay of $75,000 if he stays on board for three years and another $75,000 for an additional two years.
He said "time will tell" if he'll stay at the university throughout the five years laid out in the incentive plan.
"I am one of those people that wants to be working as long as I can be doing meaningful work somewhere," Dunn said. "Obviously, I have a love for the institution and its mission, and I'm always going to want what's best for Missouri State."
Yesterday, Smart announced Dunn's decision in a blog post on the university's website.
"As the search opened and candidates applied, it was clear, as with many of our searches, that filling the position with the same level of experience and expertise was going to be a challenge at the salary we could offer," Smart wrote in the blog post. "Many members of the leadership team have retired or announced their retirements over the last 12 months. And as I’ve made clear in recent years, I too plan to retire in the next several years. As this change in leadership takes place, it didn’t seem like the right time for a major shift in our fundraising organization if we could avoid it.
"Welcome back, Brent. I look forward to your continued leadership."
Dunn, an MSU employee since 1985, recently spearheaded the Onward Upward capital campaign that brought in commitments tallying $274 million, ahead of its $250 million goal, according to past reporting.
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