Maryanne Cameron, a member of the Keuka College Class of 2005, had a good job working in the development office at SUNY Oswego. She began her role in 2013, and aside from a long commute each day from her home in Geneva, Maryanne liked her job. Then she learned Keuka College was seeking a major gift officer. Not only would she have a shorter commute, she would be back on a familiar campus. She applied, aced the interview, was hired and began her role in April.
But this isn’t the first time Maryanne, who earned her master’s degree in management as an adult student, has worked at her alma mater.
“In 2004, I answered a classified ad from Dave Sweet [director of athletics], who was seeking an assistant women’s basketball coach,” says Maryanne, who played basketball in high school and college. “The position would not be paid, but I took it anyway. Shortly after that, a full-time, paid position opened in admissions.”
As Maryanne had been working in sales as her day job, transitioning into higher education was something new. While perhaps a little nervous about treading unfamiliar professional territory, she got some encouragement from Joan Davis Braun ’63.
“My dad worked with her husband, and she encouraged me to apply for the position,” says Maryanne. “This was my first foray into higher education, and I realized everyone does a little bit of everything here, and I liked that.”
As an admissions counselor, Maryanne had a territory that included the North Country of New York and around Albany, up through New England. She also served as the transfer coordinator and worked with international students.
Though working as an admissions counselor was something new, Maryanne found she enjoyed the traveling, meeting potential students, and promoting the College. But she was ready for something new. After earning her degree, Maryanne took a position in development at the University of Nevada at Reno, working in the university’s College of Engineering.
Just as Maryanne did not have experience in being an admission counselor, she was new to the field of development. But that didn’t worry her.
“I feel like I can fit in a lot of places, and I think development is one of those jobs you don’t know about until you fall into it,” says Maryanne. “My bachelor’s degree is in environmental science, so I have an appreciation for math and science. And having that understanding made it easier to translate the needs of the university to the engineers. I liked the traveling, so it was a logical fit, and it was a lot of fun.”
But the job did not come without some initial challenges.
“At first, I wasn’t sure what I was doing, I didn’t know who to call or who to visit, or where the big gifts would come from,” she admits. “But I learned the history of the institution, talked with a lot of people, and I figured it out. Also, starting my career in development during the recession really helped me. I would get used to hearing ‘no.’”
But “no” didn’t stop her.
“I’ve found that most people are philanthropic, and want to donate to the causes they believe in,” Maryanne says. “But when times are tough, they may say ‘no,’ ‘not right now,’ or they may even say ‘yes, but I can’t give what you’re asking.’ That is why the personal connection is so important.”
Now she has brought that flare for the personal connection, and her development knowledge, back to Keuka College.
“Fundraising is a very personal area, as you must build solid relationships with people before asking them for donations,” says Maryanne. “The advantage of being a ‘new’ College employee is that I already know some of the College’s history and know some of the expectations on how things are run, which helps me.”
She adds that being back on the Keuka College campus feels good, and she sees familiar faces on campus, and knows some community residents, alumni, and Board of Trustee members. Still, she knows there are challenges ahead.
“But I’ve jumped in and I look forward to making an impact, and making a difference,” says Maryanne.