Michael Ward has been promoted to executive director of the North Carolina Textile Foundation (NCTF), the fundraising arm of the Wilson College of Textiles. He joined NCTF as director of development in the spring of 2016 and was promoted to senior director of development in 2018.
“In the three years and five months since Michael joined us, he has been instrumental in enabling the College and Foundation to achieve major fundraising successes,” said Wilson College of Textiles dean David Hinks.
These accomplishments include record fundraising in Fiscal Year 2017, with gifts totaling $4 million; record fundraising in Fiscal Year 2018, with gifts totaling $4.2 million; and record fundraising in Fiscal Year 2019, with gifts totaling $32 million from 900 students, alumni and friends — the highest number of individual donors in the college’s history. During this time, NCTF established both the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council and the Faculty and Staff Giving Campaign, and Wilson College of Textiles became the second named college at NC State.
“Michael brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique skillset, built over 20 years of fundraising and athletic development experience at public institutions,” said Hinks. “Michael is an exceptional and sincere relationship builder with an inspiring commitment to let every person know he cares and that they matter, regardless of whether they are existing or potential donors, students or Wilson College staff and faculty.”
A Raleigh native, Ward remembers spending autumn Saturdays in Carter-Finley Stadium, cheering on the Wolfpack with his grandfather, an NC State alumnus. However, it was another sport that led to his first charitable gift.
“When I was a kid, my dream was to be the basketball coach for NC State,” he said. “Coach V [Jim Valvano] inspired me with his spirit. I was a senior in high school when he passed away. The first gift I ever made was to the V Foundation — I sent a check in for $10 my senior year. He continues to inspire me today.”
Ward earned his bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University in 1999, and was a student manager for the Appalachian State Mountaineers men’s basketball team. The coach, Buzz Peterson, helped connect him with a 10-week internship with NC State Athletics.
“My first two weeks, I learned more than I ever thought I could, having shared an office with the legendary [longtime NC State athletics administrator] Frank Weedon,” he said. “After those first two weeks, I had the opportunity to help with the Wolfpack Club out at Carter-Finley Stadium as they were doing the initial seat selection to generate capital for what is now the PNC arena. I loved the interaction with people. When I graduated from Appalachian, I was fortunate to be selected to serve a one-year internship with the Wolfpack Club [athletic booster]. I owe a great deal for the opportunities I had early on to Coach Peterson and [Wolfpack Club executive director] Bobby Purcell.”
After graduation, Ward served as associate director for athletic development at Northern Illinois University from 2001 to 2004, where he directed the annual giving program. In 2004, he joined East Carolina University as associate director for athletic development, worked as the major gifts officer for its College of Engineering and Technology in 2008, and became the gift and estate planning officer for the university in 2012. While there, he worked toward a master’s in public administration. He served as the senior director of development for Clemson University from 2014 to 2016 before returning home to North Carolina to become NCTF’s director of development.
A first generation college graduate, Ward knows the importance of higher education — and how charitable giving is an investment in the future.
“I was not a good student [and] it was a struggle, but I achieved getting that education; I know that without it, I would not have had the opportunities given to me professionally,” he said. “In my 20 years working in higher education, I have witnessed countless times how this achievement changes the course for individuals. If I can help mentor a student, or help to facilitate a gift conversation with a donor who has a charitable desire to invest in education, it’s a privilege for me to be part of that experience.”
The Wilson Gift
In 2018, alumnus Frederick “Fred” Eugene Wilson Jr. and the Wilson family gave a $28 million gift to fund an endowment to support and name NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles. Ward worked diligently on the project, but is quick to emphasize that many people worked as a team with the Wilson family to facilitate the historic gift.
“From the leadership of the university, college, central advancement, university communications/stewardship and events to so many others, we all worked together,” he said. “I have been told by peers in my profession that this is truly a legacy for me in this field of work, but to be clear, this is Mr. Wilson’s legacy. I was grateful that the family was willing to learn more about our needs, and appreciate the special relationship I have with him and the family. Their hope is that this will inspire many others. We are the only textiles college remaining in the United States. As we see a resurgent American textiles industry, I hope alumni, friends and industry will see the importance in investing in textile education, innovation and research.”
The North Carolina Textile Foundation
“If you are a graduate of the Wilson College of Textiles and received scholarships or enrichment funds while a student, there is a good chance that was through the NCTF,” said Ward. “The foundation was incorporated in 1942 and for 77 years has been the funding arm for supporting scholarships/fellowships, capital improvements, professorships and many other needs. We have a strong and dedicated board, made up of 16 directors consisting of industry leaders, philanthropists and alumni. I am very grateful for their leadership and support of our team.”
Ward has many goals for NCTF, both in the months ahead and the long term:
First, I want to make sure our team has the resources needed to be successful. When I joined the foundation, we were a team of two. In just over 3 years, we are on path to have doubled our endowment, and we have doubled our donor base. Remarkable work from those on the team.
We have two premiere scholarship programs: the Centennial Scholars and the Pioneer Scholars. These are both merit-based and need-based scholarships. My short-term goal would be to close the funding gap on these scholarship programs. We also want to continue to enhance our stewardship of existing donors. Our past donors have enabled the college to be in a healthy position we find ourselves in today, and we can never fall short of making sure they know how important they are to us.
As for mid-term, I would like to develop a strategic plan that will mirror that of the college. Wilson College of Textiles is updating their plan and we need to make sure we are fulfilling our mission in supporting the needs of the college. We also need to be in a position to help meet the emerging needs of a resurgent American textile industry, through developing workforce talent, training services and manufacturing innovation and automation, to name a few.
Our long term goal will be to continue to seek investment and support into our endowment. If you follow higher education, it’s no secret that state funding has been consistently on the decline for the past 10 years. Philanthropy will continue to be critical in the future success of NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles.
For Ward, the key to success in the development and fundraising field is building relationships.
“People want you to be genuine, authentic and honest,” he said.
His greatest relationships, however, are outside the workplace.
“I love being with my wife, Alison, and our two children, Michaela (12) and Watts (10), and our dogs, Barney and Millee. Being an active dad is my greatest title, so I spend time volunteering with scouts, watching them play sports and generally just being with them,” he said.
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