Quentin Hietpas, senior vice president for external affairs and director of two capital fund-raising campaigns that to date have raised more than $300 million for the University of St. Thomas, will retire Oct. 1, 2001.
Hietpas, 69, will retire at the conclusion of the St. Thomas: Ever Press Forward campaign, which is scheduled to end Sept. 21, 2001. He will continue to work as a consultant to the university.
“Quent has done an exceptional job in his almost 18 years at St. Thomas,” said the Rev. Dennis Dease, president. “Nobody is a better fund-raising strategist. Nobody knows our benefactors better. Nobody can close a gift better. Combine those attributes with his knowledge of public relations and the Twin Cities business and nonprofit communities, and you have a fund-raiser who is unequaled.”
Dease will oversee a search for Hietpas’ successor.
Hietpas, a native of Chicago, grew up in Little Chute, Wis., enrolled at St. Thomas in 1949. He studied the British national press system under a Student Project for Amity Among Nations (SPAN) scholarship and graduated cum laude in 1953 with a degree in English and history. He has a juris doctor degree (1966) from William Mitchell College of Law.
After graduation from St. Thomas, he worked as a reporter and editor at the Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis., and served as a first lieutenant in the Air Force in San Antonio, Texas.
He returned to Minnesota in 1956. Over the next 27 years he held vice-president positions in public relations or corporate communications at five Twin Cities area corporations, including Pillsbury and Control Data, where he worked until 1983. During those years, he contributed to two public relations textbooks.
He was named in 1983 to the new position of senior vice president for external affairs at St. Thomas by Monsignor Terrence Murphy, then president, with responsibility for the university relations, fund-raising and alumni areas. Hietpas had been an adjunct professor in the Journalism Department since 1974, when he began teaching the university’s first public relations course.
“Quent was interested in a full-time teaching position,” Murphy recalled. “I talked to him and said that he could do more good for the university if he took the senior vice president’s job. I had wanted to bring together our fund-raising and public relations efforts and make sure they were better coordinated. Quent said, ‘I’ll make a deal with you. If I do this work for five years, will you hire me as a full-time teacher?’ I said yes. After about three years, I asked him, ‘What about our deal?’ Quent said, ‘I like this job so much, I have forgotten all about that.’ “
Hietpas continued to teach until 1990 and structured a public relations concentration that today has 80 majors. He founded the Master in Business Communication degree program with the Rev. James Whalen, retired chairman of the Journalism Department, in 1984. Today, that program has 220 students.
Hietpas has been “outstanding” in raising funds, Murphy said, because of his corporate experience, self-confidence and work ethic. “He knows how to deal with people at the top; he has a peer relationship,” Murphy said.”
Soon after joining St. Thomas, Hietpas was asked by Murphy and the board of trustees to focus his work on raising capital and endowment funds to fill needs that resulted from the explosive enrollment growth in the mid-1970s and 1980s.
He directed the Century II capital campaign from 1986 to 1991, exceeding the $35 million goal by raising $83 million and facilitating expansion into Minneapolis. The Ever Press Forward campaign, announced in 1996 with a goal of $120 million, has generated more than $220 million in gifts and pledges with a year to go.
Among the gifts that Hietpas has closed is a $50 million pledge earlier this year from Richard M. Schulze, chairman and chief executive officer of Best Buy Inc., and his wife Sandra. The gift is the largest ever to a Minnesota college or university.
“Raising funds for a university like this, with its excellent Development Office and a reputation for instilling values and ethics in young people, is exhilarating,” Hietpas said. “It’s more like a ministry than a job for those of us who raise funds here. I am constantly amazed by how generous people are once they understand our mission, our vision and our needs.”
Last year, Hietpas conducted a feasibility study to determine whether St. Thomas could raise sufficient funds to open and operate a law school. The study concluded that between $75 million and $100 million could be raised for the project, which became an additional capital campaign priority. To date, $50 million in gifts and pledges have been received for the law school.
In addition to his work at St. Thomas, Hietpas has been on the boards of directors at Pentair Inc., a Minneapolis-based diversified manufacturer with 14,000 employees in 50 countries; Internet Financial Services of Minneapolis; International Investor Relations Corp. in Amsterdam; CSM Parliamentary Consultants and NMA Communications in London; and Westmoreland Flint, a Duluth public relations and advertising firm.
He has been a member of the Public Relations Society of America and the Minnesota and Hennepin County Bar associations, and is a Knight of Malta. He was a charter member of the National Investor Relations Institute and a past officer and director of the Minnesota Press Club.
He and his wife, Sally (née Froehlich), live in St. Paul. They have seven children and 13 grandchildren.