After twelve years of service to the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, Director of Development and Alumni Relations Mary Alice Bankert will be retiring from the University of Michigan on January 1, 2020. She passes the directorial torch to her trusted colleague Nan Pozios, who has been serving as Major Gifts Officer for the Stamps School since 2018.
In her short time at Stamps, Pozios has established a robust fundraising record, securing several major gifts within her first year on the job and working with Bankert to develop near and long-term alumni engagement and stewardship strategies.
Bankert’s contributions to the Stamps School community were innumerable, but included leading the school's most successful fundraising campaign in its history, resulting in $28.8M in scholarships, faculty grants, and new studio suites. In 2018, Bankert was recognized with a Victors Valiant Award for her service and contributions to the university community.
“I couldn’t do any of this without the support of an incredibly hardworking, committed team,” Bankert says.
“Mary Alice has a deep respect for what it means to an individual when they choose to invest in our school and our vision,” said Guna Nadarajan, Dean of the Stamps School of Art & Design. “She is keenly attuned to the needs of our students and faculty, in identifying priorities for the school and effectively garnered the wisdom, generosity, and unyielding support of our alumni and broader school community.”
For Bankert, a first generation college graduate, supporting Stamps students in their pursuit of higher education was a deeply personal endeavor. “I so vividly remember my first year at college — learning new things, having my eyes opened to new concepts. I see Stamps students having similar awakenings. And I understand the importance of making sure they can make the most out of their time at the University of Michigan.”
In service of nurturing the next generation of culture-makers, Bankert spent much of her career on the road, traveling all over the country to meet with Stamps alumni and friends. She loved listening to the stories of alums, soaking up tales of their favorite professors, the classes that they’ll never forget, and the friendships that stood the test of time. Bankert also took great pleasure in developing relationships with supporters from outside of our alumni network, learning about their careers, goals, and passions.
“I remember driving across North Carolina to meet with an alum once and I just thought to myself, right there in the car: I have the best job in the world,” Bankert said.
“I have the pleasure of representing all of the great work that happens at our school, the incredible projects of our students and our faculty. I’m just the public face — the real work is what’s happening within our building every day.”
According to Bankert, alums and parents are eager to hear about all of the exciting things happening at the school today. “They want to know what our students are learning and making — and how they can help. It is such an honor to help make those connections, to help people make a difference in a way that matters deeply to them.”
Pozios agrees wholeheartedly. “It’s so great to talk with our supporters about all the special things happening at the school that they’re a part of. People are genuinely excited to see how far we’ve come -- and eager to play a role in the shaping of our future.”
When asked what she wished more people knew about philanthropy, Bankert offered, “Supporting our students and furthering the next generation can happen in so many ways. It’s more than the donation itself; it’s about connecting with an aspect of the school that matters deeply to you. And seeing the impact.”
Pozios seconded this, adding that in the future, they’d like to incorporate more workshops, class visits, internships, and apprenticeship opportunities for alumni and students to connect. She feels that the experiences and career paths of our alums are foundational in helping current students build a vision for their creative practice and careers.
“We’re dealing with creative people — and there’s not one mold for that career trajectory,” Pozios said. “Every story that we hear will inform our community and fuel our students as we move forward.”
Bankert, who comes from a fiber arts background and looks forward to spending more time on her creative practice in retirement, feels this sentiment deeply. “No matter what careers our alums choose, creativity is something that they cherish and use in their everyday lives,” Bankert says. “They always have it.”
Both Bankert and Pozios feel that our community of alumni and friends are our greatest resource for our students.
“Every dollar makes a difference at Stamps,” Pozios said. “It’s not the amount that is given. It’s the sentiment that you believe in our students. You believe in our faculty. You believe in the importance of an art and design education at the University of Michigan.”