"It was just time": Advancement Director Karen Cooley to retire at end of June
Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 8:45am
URBANA — Since April 2007, Karen Cooley has been hard at work as Uni's director of advancement, in charge of fundraising and alumni relations.
However, she recently announced that she will retire as of June 30.
"It was just time," said Cooley, who has been affiliated with the University of Illinois for more than 34 years. "It's nothing to do with Uni; I love the faculty here, and the students, and especially the alums .… It was a hard decision, but it was just time to do it."
In her three years here, Cooley's job has consisted primarily of raising funds for Uni. Director Jeff Walkington estimates she is responsible for raising about one-fourth of Uni's budget through parent and alumni donations. In addition, she works to organize reunions and other events for Uni alums.
"She's very capable and has a lot of experience," said Walkington. "I'm very sorry to see her go."
"That was a great event," she recalled. "The students I think had a really good time at the event and the alums who were here, especially Paul and Jonathan, had a great time. I've heard from both of them, and they thought it was wonderful and they very much enjoyed talking with the students."
Her retirement brings on the task of finding a successor. According to Walkington and Cooley, the search paperwork is in, but its status is currently in the air, partly due to the U of I's tight budget.
"We're not quite sure what's going to happen with that," she said. "We believe it'll be OK-ed and we'll go ahead and be able to do the search."
However, Cooley won't be easy to replace.
"I think that she's worked with the faculty to the place where they see that she is someone who really has their best interests at heart," Walkington said. "We might be able to find somebody with the expertise, but to find somebody with such a pleasant personality and a winning way with teachers might be a little harder."
After her retirement, Cooley wants to spend more time with her husband and her sister. In addition, she hopes to devote her time to community service, working with the Cunningham Children's Home, her church group, and other charities. Even with such plans, Cooley says she will still miss Uni.
"I have always had this passion for wanting to work in an environment with students," said Cooley. "Just seeing what they're learning, like what the InvenTeam's doing and what the ExploraVision team is doing, it's just amazing to me how successful students are and how many ideas they come up with. That's just fantastic."
So, in her final weeks at the school, Cooley shares some wisdom with students as her parting words: "Pursue your passions .… Don't do what anybody else wants you to do, do what is really passionate for your heart and pursue that."