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Lifelong Jayhawk Embraces Servant Leadership
Valerie Gieler
Photo by Mark McDonald
KU Endowment President Dan Martin is excited to give back

KU Endowment President Dan Martin has enjoyed an eventful fall meeting team members and campus partners to further university initiatives and working with Jayhawks from around the country. Martin is a fifth-generation Kansan from Overland Park with three KU degrees — an MBA, J.D. and Ed.D. in Higher Education Policy and Leadership — and an Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania. His passion for the University of Kansas is complemented by experience as the chief philanthropy officer at a health system and a university president, with a total of three decades in higher education. Martin and his wife, Pam, an educator, have two sons. Jacob is in his first year of law school at the University of Denver, and their youngest son Josh is recently married and completing a master’s in finance at the University of Oklahoma. Of course, the Martin family isn’t complete without Bazely, their Saint Bernard. 

Q. What brought you back to KU?

A. KU has been the primary shaper and influencer in my career. My story is a story that has been told hundreds of thousands of times as we look at the legacy of the University of Kansas and its impact. Serving as KU Endowment president is my way of giving back and contributing to the university’s future and the vision that has been outlined in Jayhawks Rising, the university’s strategic plan. Coming back and seeing the expansion of our campuses and what those facilities will do to enhance the delivery of education and the creation of knowledge communicates to me that KU remains a place that is thriving. I envision KU Endowment continuing to be an effective partner, and I’m excited about the potential. 

Q. How did your KU experience and education prepare you for your career?

A. My motivation for attending KU in those specific programs was to prepare for a career in higher education. My legal education helped train the way I think through issues and address challenges through critical analysis. My MBA program developed my understanding about the business principles and practices that inform highly effective and functional organizations. The educational policy and leadership degree provided a historical knowledge and understanding of higher education philosophy. Learning how the university’s mission is carried out and the role of philanthropy also was key. It requires resources to move ideas and thoughts and plans and actions forward. 

Q. When you think about your time on campus, what comes to mind? Do you have a favorite place or KU tradition? 

A. My relationship with faculty is what I remember most — not only the conversations we had in the classroom and the particular work we engaged in, but also the conversations around life perspectives and how to contribute to organizations and higher education specifically. It has been great to come back to campus years later and reengage with some of the same faculty members. I also think about walking down Jayhawk Boulevard, which immediately elicits an emotional response and a feeling of inspiration. I love the sense of history and connections to our founding and how our university mission and vision is furthered through those campus facilities. I think about the generations of students and families who have walked those same sidewalks and about the hopes these spaces fostered for them. 

Q. What would you like donors to know about you and your approach to fundraising?

A. I am a Kansan and a Jayhawk. I am all about relationships with people. And that is how I think about philanthropy and higher education. It is about developing relationships and having that place of trust and understanding, meeting people where they are and building a sense of shared mission and vision. I see it as my role to facilitate how we can contribute to each other’s lives and to the university we love and hold dear. It is part of our responsibility as stewards of this time and this place to see how we can partner in unique ways, with new approaches to think about what the university may need to continue the level of excellence, pursue innovative ideas and prepare for the future. I fully appreciate and lean into the role that KU Endowment has played in support of KU since 1891 as the nation’s first private foundation for a public university.

Q. What has been your most memorable experience since arriving at KU Endowment?

A. I have attended a lot of meetings and events, but I think the most memorable is the Jayhawk football game against Tennessee Tech — and not necessarily for the game itself, although it was fabulous. Seeing the stadium and feeling the energy, spirit and support of the fans spoke to me that there is a level of support and belief in the university and what we are trying to accomplish. There are faithful Jayhawk supporters and community members encouraging students, faculty and researchers with no less energy and enthusiasm. I’m excited to familiarize myself with the breadth of university programs and opportunities for our students and our faculty so I can be clear about how the mission is fulfilled and how best KU Endowment can serve as a resource.

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