Centre College’s Vice President for College Relations Richard Trollinger, one of the nation’s leading experts in educational fundraising, has just published a history of philanthropy and its role in the evolution of American higher education.
His co-author on the book, Philanthropy and American Higher Education (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), is his colleague John R. Thelin, the University of Kentucky College of Education professor who chaired Trollinger’s dissertation committee.
Through this work, the pair’s third collaboration, Trollinger and Thelin sought to outline their belief that support of higher education through philanthropy is central to the historic and future character of colleges and universities.
“One of the things John and I have tried to do in Philanthropy and American Higher Education is to bridge the divide that often exists in scholarship about philanthropy and fundraising,” Trollinger explains. “Although they are two sides of the same coin, fundraising is asking, whereas philanthropy is giving for the benefit of others. Most scholars have an interest in either philanthropy or fundraising, and approach their subject as though the other side of the coin did not exist.”
According to Trollinger, philanthropy scholarship typically ignores fundraising and its importance to giving. Similarly, most of the writing about fundraising largely ignores research and writing about philanthropy, including theories of donor motivation.
“Philanthropic giving rarely occurs spontaneously,” says Trollinger. “It usually has to be stimulated.”
The first joint project for Trollinger and Thelin was a study of foundations for The Aspen Institute. Their second collaboration, “Forever is a Long Time: Reconsidering Universities’ Perpetual Endowment Policies in the Twenty-First Century,” was published in The History of Intellectual Culture and received the 2013 Grenzebach Award for Outstanding Published Research in Philanthropy for Educational Advancement from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Thelin, whose book, A History of American Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), is the leading text used in graduate courses on the topic, relished the opportunity to team with Trollinger once again on their shared interest in educational philanthropy.
“The best part of the project for me was the opportunity to collaborate with Richard, who has the rare combination of excellence in scholarship and in professional achievement combined with sound educational values in guiding colleges and universities,” says Thelin.
Indeed, Trollinger’s wealth of knowledge and more than four decades of educational fundraising experience positioned him well for writing on the topic of philanthropy.
“I have long been aware that a college or university’s ability to attract financial support in the form of philanthropic gifts is a strategic strength,” he says. “In fact, it is often said that philanthropy is the key determinate of quality in America’s competitive system of higher education.”
For Centre, Trollinger’s leadership in fundraising continues to be a strength that positions the College as a national leader in giving. Since joining Centre in 1994, he has directed two successful capital campaigns. The College’s most recent campaign endeavor, The Campaign for A More Perfect Centre, exceeded its goal of $120 million by more than $49 million, generating gifts and pledges totaling $169,374,192 when completed on Dec. 31, 2007.
“Philanthropy and American Higher Education follows the issues that have persisted in giving and receiving philanthropy to American colleges and universities from the seventeenth century to present day. Through historical, philosophical, economic and legal perspectives, along with data analysis, Thelin and Trollinger outline their belief that support of higher education through philanthropy is central to the historic and future character of colleges and universities. This timely work is essential to the present and future financial planning and academic direction of institutions, and the future of philanthropy for colleges and universities across the country.”
Last year alone, 6,755 donors made gifts to the College totaling $13 million, and the overall alumni participation rate for giving reached 49 percent, placing Centre in the top one percent of colleges and universities nationally.
According to Shawn Lyons, associate vice president for development and alumni affairs, Trollinger’s work at Centre has been “essential in helping donors understand how their philanthropy can transform the College.”
“He also played a central role in raising the College’s visibility nationally by co-chairing the general election debate steering committees in 2000 and 2012,” Lyons adds.
Trollinger earned a bachelor’s degree at Emory and Henry College and an M.Ed. in higher education administration at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education. He also holds an M.A. from Indiana University in philanthropic studies and a Ph.D. in educational policy studies from the University of Kentucky. His doctoral dissertation, which examined the impact of transformational gifts on colleges and universities, received CASE’s top award for research relating to the role of philanthropy in advancing higher education institutions.
In addition to serving the College, Trollinger is active within the Danville community. He is a board member and former chair of the Kentucky School for the Deaf Charitable Foundation, and he was recently elected chair of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership board of directors.
Trollinger and his wife, Patsi, live in Danville. Their twin daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, both graduated from Centre in 2011.