Erik Thurman, a vice president at the University of Minnesota Foundation, has been named vice president for development and alumni relations at St. Thomas.
President Julie Sullivan announced the appointment of Thurman, who will join St. Thomas on Aug. 1. He will oversee the Development and Advancement departments and their 70 staff members.
“I am delighted that Erik will become a member of the St. Thomas community and lead our development and advancement programs,” Sullivan said. “His two decades of experience at the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa have perfectly prepared him to oversee our fundraising efforts. In addition, he is a man of strong values and integrity, the consummate professional and a strategic thinker, and someone I know I will enjoy working with very much.”
Thurman said he was content in his role as vice president of development, corporate and foundation relations and principal giving at Minnesota, but was drawn to the St. Thomas position for many reasons.
“I’m thrilled with the opportunity to work with President Sullivan, the Board of Trustees, a team of talented advancement professionals, alumni, benefactors and the entire St. Thomas community to deliver on what I think is such a compelling mission of advancing the common good,” he said. “That is in close alignment with my personal faith and values, and those of my family.”
He added, “The work we do together to support this important mission will have an impact on St. Thomas today and for generations to come.”
Thurman is impressed with St. Thomas’ evolution into a comprehensive university and believes “you are clearly poised for the next chapter. It will be rewarding to embrace the momentum you have built and to help in taking the next steps to further enhance the student experience.”
Illinois native, Iowa graduate
Thurman was born in Moline, Illinois, and grew up in Sherrard, Illinois, south of the Quad Cities. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa in 1998, and got his first taste of fundraising as a student caller for the university’s foundation.
“I had a choice of two jobs as a student – to drive a campus bus or to work for the foundation’s Telefund,” he said. “The Telefund job paid 50 cents an hour more, so I took it, and I found out that I really enjoyed talking with alumni and asking them to support the university. That experience sparked my enthusiasm for working with benefactors who are passionate about helping students and advancing higher education.”
Thurman remained at the foundation for a year after graduation before becoming a marketing representative at Federated Mutual Insurance Co. in Owatonna. Eighteen months later, he found himself back at his alma mater as an assistant director of development in the arts.
“I was always painting and drawing as a kid, so I had a natural interest in the arts,” he said. “The position gave me an opportunity to get more involved in the visual and performing arts while launching my development career.”
He became associate director of development for University of Iowa Health Care in 2003. He held health care fundraising positions over the next 12 years, moving to the University of Minnesota in 2005 as director of development at the Minnesota Medical Foundation.
“The vice president I worked for at Iowa was going to Minnesota,” he recalled, “and said, ‘Erik, you should come with me.’ A year later, we moved to Minnesota, and a decade later we’re still here. It’s been a wonderful place to live and raise our family.”
Thurman was promoted to associate vice president of development at the medical foundation in 2006, to senior associate vice president in 2011 and to vice president in 2013 (when the foundation merged into university’s foundation). He also served as interim assistant dean for development and alumni relations in the Carlson School of Management for several months last year.
At the foundation, Thurman is one of four vice presidents of development and manages a portfolio of $5 million-and-higher donors and principal gift prospects. He led teams to raise some of the largest gifts in the university’s history, including a $40 million biomedical research gift and a $25 million corporate gift. During his senior associate vice presidency, his teams were responsible for $475 million of the $1 billion goal of the Vision 2017 health sciences campaign.
Thurman and his wife, Emily, have a daughter and a son, Elizabeth and Crosby. They are members of Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in St. Paul, where he is on the school advisory board and she is on the parish’s Council of Catholic Women. He is also the board chair of Dodoma Tanzania Health Development, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit supporting health care for children and adults in the Dodoma region of central Tanzania.