Auburn selects KSU’s Morris to lead advancement operation

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Auburn University is implementing an improved structure to strengthen its effectiveness in alumni engagement, philanthropy, communications and marketing. 

John Morris, who served the Kansas State University Foundation as senior vice president for development since 2016, begins March 8 leading the new organization as Auburn’s first senior vice president for advancement. He will direct approximately 200 professionals in the combined Auburn Offices of Alumni Affairs, Development and Communications and Marketing. 

The merged entity creates an integrated, efficient team that promotes a shared, strategically focused vision of Auburn, according to President Jay Gogue.

“Moving to the advancement model is a major step forward for Auburn,” said Gogue. “John is a seasoned advancement professional whose ability to create and execute strategic alignment among diverse teams has realized tremendous success at the institutions he has served. The combination of his experience, passion and entrepreneurial spirit will generate tangible results crucial for Auburn’s future.” 

Morris will be a member of the president’s cabinet and serve on Gogue’s senior leadership team. Under his direction, the advancement operation will play an important role in achieving goals and metrics in Auburn’s strategic plan. 

My family and I couldn’t be more excited to join the Auburn Family,” said Morris. “Auburn is one of the few universities in the world with a soul. It’s so much more than a place where students go to learn. Auburn is a passion and a lifelong commitment, and its values are our values. I’m humbled and grateful to help Auburn harness its position of strength, proliferate the Auburn brand and verbalize the Auburn Creed.”

The advancement model is designed to improve how universities build and foster relationships with individuals external to the institution. The new structure will align Auburn’s alumni, development, communications and marketing functions into a unified organization focused on fulfilling Auburn’s vision “to lead and shape the future of higher education.” 

Under Morris’ leadership, fundraising commitments to the KSU Foundation grew by more than 60%, and its recent development campaign surpassed its $1.4 billion goal ahead of schedule by $200 million. At the same time, the number of annual $1 million gifts grew from 21 to more than 40, increasing the total funding raised by more than 40%.

Morris began his higher education career at Benedictine University as assistant director of athletics for advancement and later as the institution’s associate vice president for advancement. He then held positions of increasing responsibility and authority at the University of Minnesota Foundation before joining the KSU Foundation. For more information on his background, please click here.

Morris received a bachelor’s degree from Winona State University and a master’s degree from Illinois State University. He and his wife Kerry have four children: Molly (7), Layla (5), Hadley (3) and John “Cal” (1).

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.