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Board President Nurnberger sees critical role for Foundation in Western's future development

David Nurnberger has begun his fourth year as chairman of the WCSU Foundation Board of Directors more convinced than ever that the Foundation must play a critical role in preserving Western Connecticut State University’s academic achievements and ensuring a WCSU education remains affordable and accessible to a new generation of students.

“The primary role of the Foundation board is to ensure that we have the private funds to support the university’s mission, particularly at a time when the availability of public funding is decreasing,” Nurnberger remarked during a recent interview.

“The need for scholarship resources becomes especially critical because of the present crisis in public finances at the state level,” he observed. “WestConn and the Foundation must continue to do an effective job in raising funds from private donors. We have a real opportunity to make a difference, and we have an institution that we can be very proud of.”

The WCSU Foundation, established in 1971, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising and managing private charitable donations for the benefit of the university and its students. As a member of the Foundation board since June 2000 and chairman since March 2008, Nurnberger has witnessed first-hand how the university’s private fundraising efforts in collaboration with the Foundation have made an important contribution to promoting student access and diversity and advancing Western’s margin of excellence.

“I’m really pleased with the growth of the Foundation in the time that I’ve been there, and this growth gives us an opportunity to offer more scholarships to more students,” he said.  Foundation assets under management totaled $12.38 million as of Dec. 31, 2010, more than double the total of $5.11 million in Foundation assets reported at the end of 2001.

Nurnberger identified two fundamental goals in the Foundation’s work to expand scholarship resources.“We need to provide scholarship support to more students who are in financial need,” he affirmed. “At the same time, I would like to see us reach the position where we can offer more substantial scholarships — awards that meet 75 percent, and even the full cost of tuition — to the brightest students. Our goal should be to attract and keep these students by assuring them that they won’t have to worry about whether they will have the funds to continue their education over four years.”

Nurnberger, who retired in January as senior vice president for human resources at Ridgefield-based Boehringer Ingelheim after a management career spanning 35 years in the nonprofit and corporate sectors, traces the beginnings of his connection with the university to his enrollment in 1968 to begin undergraduate studies at Western Connecticut State College. He and his wife Nancy both earned bachelor’s degrees in education at Western in 1972. After four years’ service in the U.S. Air Force, he held positions as a fundraising administrator with United Way of Waterbury and as president of the United Way of Northern Fairfield County before joining Boehringer Ingelheim in 1990.

Nurnberger initially reestablished his ties with Western through professional collaborations, including United Way’s partnership with the WCSU department of social work in preparing community needs assessments and Boehringer Ingelheim’s development with Ancell School faculty of a customized training program for company managers. His relationship with the university has deepened over the past two decades as a longtime donor and member of the President’s Club, supporter of the Alumni Association, and director for the past eight years on the Foundation board.

He and his wife Nancy, a retired teacher who served for many years in the Naugatuck school system, this year will complete the final instalment of a three-year, $50,000 pledge to establish the David and Nancy Nurnberger Scholarship Fund, an endowed fund dedicated to provide annual scholarship awards for education students who plan to pursue teaching careers. “We both got great educations at Western, and we wanted to give students today the opportunity to get into that noble profession,” he said.

“We also wanted to set an example to give, and give significantly, to the university,” he noted. “Western was a good college when we were enrolled here, and it has become a great university and great institution today. A Western education is a great bargain in these times of economic troubles and rising education costs, but my wife and I recognize there are many families who still cannot afford our tuition.”     

Nurnberger sees great potential for the Foundation to support the university in reaching out to the thousands of Western alumni who, like himself, may have fallen out of contact with the university in the years following their graduation. “I had been away from the university for many years and, when I came back, I was amazed at the university’s development,” he said. “From my perspective, we have an institution we can really sell, but we have to find new ways to reach those alumni and make the case for their financial support. “

He expressed optimism at the progress that the university has made over the past decade in generating a steady rise in private donations, which gained momentum in 2003 with the university’s Centennial Campaign marking the 100th anniversary of Western’s founding.  He emphasized that it will be critical to sustain that momentum in private fundraising in view of the severe constraints that will continue to limit state funding and tuition revenues, the other two pillars of the university’s financial resources.

“There will be a different balance than there has been in the past,” he said. “Today we are on our own. It is primarily in the area of private resources where we have the capacity to generate sufficient funds with the flexibility and opportunity to make a difference and allow the university to do many of the things it needs to do.” In addition to providing the necessary base to increase and expand scholarship support, he noted the Foundation also makes a significant role in assuring a quality educational experience at Western through fundraising for academic enrichment programs ranging from student exchange programs and participation in academic conferences to scheduling of guest speakers.

He emphasized the importance of the university’s active outreach efforts in the Danbury area and the surrounding region to share WCSU’s story with the public. “The university, especially under (WCSU President) Jim Schmotter’s leadership, has done a wonderful job in connecting the university with the community, and that has got to help,” he said.

Nurnberger is eager to return to work this fall with a Foundation board whose membership brings a diverse range of professional and personal experience to the table.

“We’ve got a strong Foundation board, and we may want to find new ways to involve the members of the board and invite them to take a more proactive role in helping to raise money for the university,” he observed. He views the board’s members as friends and advocates of the university whose personal commitment to Western’s mission will be of great help in “bringing people together to share our story and make our case.”

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