BSU Alumni & Financial Executive Director Robert “Rob” Bollinger to Retire
BEMIDJI, MINN. — Bemidji State University has launched a national search to replace its top development official, Robert “Rob” Bollinger, whose retirement on June 30 will coincide with the conclusion of the university’s groundbreaking $35 million fundraising campaign called Imagine Tomorrow.
Leadership of the successful campaign, the first of its kind for Bemidji State, has been a capstone to Bollinger’s decade of service as BSU’s executive director for university advancement. He will continue his career in education fundraising — and return to the game of football — at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.
Although retiring from the university, Bollinger will step into a new role as development officer for Cretin-Derham Hall, a Catholic private school. He also will serve as an assistant football coach, joining his son Brooks Bollinger, who in December was named head football coach.
Bemidji State University President Richard Hanson, who also will retire at the end of June, said both the BSU Foundation and Alumni Association have grown significantly under Bollinger’s guidance in the engagement, cultivation and stewardship of donors and all alums.
Thanks in large part to the success of the five-year Imagine Tomorrow campaign for scholarships and academic excellence, which continues to push past its original goal, the foundation has increased its endowment from $12.69 million to $22.85 million and doubled its total scholarship awards, from $698,766 awarded during the 2010-11 academic year to $1.45 million to be awarded during the 2016-17 academic year.
“Everyone who believes in Bemidji State University and its students owes Rob a debt of gratitude for his service,” Hanson said. “Not only have his enthusiasm and diligence been crucial to our success with Imagine Tomorrow, he also has made enormous strides in building and strengthening relationships with our alumni and friends.
“We talk about the importance of establishing a culture of philanthropy. Rob has been instrumental in building such a culture at BSU, which others will reinforce and strengthen in the years to come.”
Bollinger has been the catalyst for many initiatives and special events that have become fixtures for the university and the community at large during his tenure. Among them are Community Appreciation Day, which attracts hundreds of Bemidji-area residents to campus for information, food and entertainment; the Scholarship Appreciation Breakfast, which honors scholarship recipients and donors; the Alumni B-Club, which promotes affinity and fundraising among BSU’s alumni athletes; and the Green & White Dinner and Auction for BSU Athletics, which will be held April 16 following a 2014 debut that raised more than $100,000.
He said these successes have been very much a team effort.
“I have been fortunate to work with an outstanding staff, the university administration and faculty, the Bemidji community and many alumni, donors, volunteers and friends of the university,” he said. “The Imagine Tomorrow campaign has been especially rewarding, and it has been successful due to the leadership of the Foundation Board of Directors, President Hanson and many committed volunteers and loyal and generous donors.”
Carol Russell, 2015-16 president of the BSU Foundation Board of Trustees, said Bollinger’s passion for students and the university’s success has come through in everything he’s done.
“Rob gets up every day and sets out to do as much as he can for BSU and our students,” Russell said. “His energy and enthusiasm rub off on those around him, and everyone achieves even more together as a result.”
Prior to joining BSU, Bollinger worked from 1996 to 2006 in athletics development for the University of North Dakota and the University of North Dakota Foundation. From 1986 to 1995, he culminated a 20-year high school and college football coaching career as offensive coordinator for the UND program.
Bollinger is now preparing to undertake a dual role at Cretin-Derham Hall – in both fund fundraising and football.
“This provides a unique and exciting opportunity to work with my son,” he said, “and I’m very much looking forward to joining the development staff at this outstanding high school.”
A move to the St. Paul area will bring Bollinger and his wife, Lisa, much closer to the families of their son and two daughters who live in the Twin Cities, including nine grandchildren. A second son lives in Grand Forks, N.D.