Carolyn Center, '99
Basketball standout parlays love of athletics and leadership abilities as fundraiser for the Georgia Bulldogs
June 30, 2010
As a chief annual giving fundraiser for the University of Georgia Athletic Association, Carolyn Center is one of only a few females in the ACC and SEC athletic conferences to hold such a position.
Annual giving is the No. 1 source of revenue for Georgia's Athletic Association, generating $26 million each year. The Athletic Association relies on this support to pay the scholarship bill of nearly 600 student-athletes. In addition, these financial contributions fund facilities and program support for the 21 sports Georgia offers.
Center was a student-athlete herself, at the University of Richmond. She competed four years with an athletic scholarship, on the women's basketball team. That experience, she says, helped prepare her to raise money for university athletics.
"I have first-hand knowledge of the opportunities provided to student-athletes. I was able to study at one of the best academic institutions in America and compete in Division I athletics. Both of these experiences provided life lessons and shaped who I am today. I am so thankful for the opportunities I was provided through my scholarship at Richmond, I want to ensure that other students are afforded the same," she said.
Being a Division I athlete provides challenges that a typical student would not face, Center says. "We all attend college to prepare ourselves for a career in whatever field it may be. As a Jepson student I was balancing class, homework, internships, study groups, and professor meetings with lifting weights, going to practice, watching film, traveling for competition, eating nutritionally, and getting enough sleep. Not the day of a typical college student. These challenges prepare you for life after graduation in ways that a purely academic experience does not."
"That is why I am grateful for my Jepson education as well. There was a continual focus on experiential learning and the benefits of leadership lessons outside of the classroom. I learned the importance of team work, time management, and communication all while working in a diverse group."
Those very skills are the foundation of Center's successful career in development today. Center also credits the encouragement of her professors at Jepson for building her confidence.
"I was in class with some of the best and brightest students. I lacked the confidence to voice my opinion, yet had several professors who were able to show me the value of my participation. They made me appreciate different perspectives and the benefits it provides to those in the classroom. Their encouragement in the classroom built my confidence and reiterated the importance of voicing my opinion throughout my career in athletic administration.
"While listening is a critical skill in fundraising, it is also crucial to digest and provide feedback when working with athletic supporters and administrators.
"No two days are the same. That is why I love this profession. One day I have the opportunity to visit with a donor in their office and educate them about our mission. Then the next day I can be in the office assigning football season tickets or developing a web campaign for available courtside seats. Whatever I may be doing on that specific day, it is all in effort to provide and enhance the student-athlete experience.
"I had Jepson professors who did that for me. I would look up into the stands at a home basketball game and see a Jepson professor or two sitting amidst the crowd. When your professors ask you about practice and upcoming games you know they have a genuine interest in your well-being."
Carolyn Center's Career Path
- Her senior season at UR she averaged 15.1 points per game, which ranked fifth best in the CAA and 8.4 rebounds per game which ranked second.
- CAA All-Rookie Team in 1996, First Team All CAA and UR Women's Basketball MVP in 1999
- CAA All Academic Team and University of Richmond Scholar Athlete
- Played professional basketball in England one season
- Worked at The Commissioners Office for Major League Baseball in New York
- Worked for the Norfolk Tides
- Earned a master's degree in sports management at North Carolina State University in Raleigh
- Interned in the NC State Athletic Department
- Worked for the NC State Wolfpack Club
- Managed and marketed the athletic annual giving program at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky
- Assistant Tournament Manager for the BIG EAST Volleyball Tournament and NCAA Volleyball Tournament First and Second rounds
- In 2006, became Director of Development for the University of Georgia Athletic Association in Athens, GA. Center overseas the $26 million annual giving operation which includes soliciting, cultivating and stewarding nearly 14,000 donors. Her work also consists of managing budgetary issues, administration of the department's premium seating areas, special events and ticketing and parking assignments.
Photos from Center's UR Days