Richard Daniel, Ph.D.
Dr. Richard Daniel began work as the new vice president for institutional advancement at Saint Michael’s College on August 15, 2016.
Daniel looked into what it might mean to lead advancement efforts for the socially aware Catholic institution outside of Burlington. Soon, Daniel says, he recognized that his own personal commitment to Catholic education, hard work and community service -- developed through 28 years of increasing responsibilities in admissions, student affairs, fund-raising and alumni relations -- aligned authentically with the mission and history of Saint Michael’s. Once he visited campus and met the people, he was sold.
“I realized Saint Michael’s has all of the things that are important to me,” Daniel says. “It’s about trying to make a difference in people’s lives -- it’s about civil rights issues, social justice issues, the education of young people to be successful and the ability to do it in a Catholic environment.”
Daniel says he developed “a tremendous affinity for work” growing up in the small Arizona copper-mining town of Superior among hard-working people, including his father, who worked in a mine for 36 years. “I’m a person who likes to work hard, get things done and accomplish things because I can see the value in the work that we do, and the impact we make.”
At Arizona State University, Daniel earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, launching an initially unplanned higher education career along the way. “I was a pre-med student in my undergrad studies, but took a year off to plan for medical school and was asked by a vice president to do recruiting for my alma mater,” he says. “This work in recruitment led to my decision to make higher education my career choice.”
From admissions, he worked alternately in academic affairs and advancement for several years at ASU, familiarizing himself with every stage of the college experience. Subsequently, he widened his resume with postings at the University of Nevada, Reno, in alumni relations; as an independent consultant for a national student lender; and in enrollment management at a community college in Phoenix.
Most recently, Daniel was the associate vice president for university advancement and special projects/executive director for alumni relations at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he helped develop a comprehensive campaign to raise $226 million, well exceeding a $200 million goal.
“The beauty of this work has been that I’ve been able to meet new students by recruiting them … then, through my student affairs work, watch them succeed in academics and ultimately graduate… and then in advancement work, recruit them back as volunteers, donors or contributors as they figure out how to make a difference -- which to me is the biggest opportunity we have.”
He says his early leadership in Catholic education came as a volunteer in Arizona when he helped his parish and its pastor start and build a Catholic primary school. He’s been active ever since in diocesan work and with the Knights of Columbus, both in Arizona and Texas. He says the school that he helped get off the ground today is providing a solid start for students who in many cases share his background, making it particularly gratifying to hear from them about their successes.
“As a first-generation Latino student who now has a PhD, I understand first-hand the importance of an education and the opportunity that it can provide,” he says. “I also understand the value of giving back, and have done that ever since I graduated. That’s why I’ve always been a servant-leader.”
Such experiences also drive his approach to fund-raising and building relationships, says Daniel, who feels he leads by life example when it comes to the urgency of giving back. “My intent in this job is to connect meaningfully with those closest to us” – alumni, donors, students, parents -- helping all Saint Michael’s constituents “figure out how they can best help us,” he said, whether by mentoring recent graduates, supporting scholarships or convincing corporations to invest in the institution.
Daniel, who recently moved to South Burlington, said he’s fortunate that his wife, Rebecca, has supported his work actively in college communities. “We’re definitely going to be a team, attending many events together,” said Daniel, who is a big college sports fan and wants to be a regular at arts and cultural events on campus and in the wider community. The Daniels’ son, Anthony, is a first-year student at St. Edward’s University in Texas this year, while their daughter, Celina, is a junior at Boston College.
The strength of Saint Michael’s College “is definitely its people – faculty-staff, administration, students and alumni,” says Daniel, who has been favorably impressed by those he has met and the things they are revealing to him about his new home. “We have to tell the story of why the investment in Saint Michael’s moving forward is critical. We want this institution to continue being the great institution that is has been -- and will be.”