UMKC Foundation's founding president departs university

Supporters and board members honor and thank Murray Blackwelder for his service and success leading the foundation


June 16, 2015

Supporters of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation this month bid a fond farewell to Murray Blackwelder, founding president of the foundation.

Blackwelder, who joined UMKC in 2009 to lead the new foundation, announced his retirement last year. Since January, when Steven P. Norris joined the foundation as its new president, Blackwelder has served as a consultant to facilitate the leadership transition.

“There is no doubt, he will be missed,” said Norris, who came to UMKC from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “He has built this foundation into a success story — a story that those of us remaining are fully prepared to continue. The university and the community are very grateful for what Murray has done.”

Foundation Chair Betsey Solberg, who has called Blackwelder “the best in the business,” joined other foundation board members, past chair Alan Atterbury, UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton and other foundation supporters at a June 10 luncheon to honor Blackwelder for his service.

Blackwelder’s mission was to spearhead the university’s $250 million capital campaign. He came with a well-established track record, having recently concluded a $1.7 billion campaign for Purdue University, and with several other major campaigns under his belt, including two for Iowa State University, which, combined, raised more than $600 million.

Over the course of his four-decade career, Blackwelder held leadership positions with the Wichita State University Endowment Association, Wichita State University, Rockhurst University and Baker University. In all, he was involved in seven major capital campaigns that raised some $3.8 billion.

During his five years at UMKC, the UMKC Foundation accepted five of the seven-largest gifts in university history, including gifts from Henry W. Bloch; the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation; Thomas D. and Vina W. Hyde; and the Hall Family Foundation. The foundation endowment grew to more than $42 million and the foundation is accepting some 50,000 charitable gifts for the university annually.

Murray plans to retire in the Kansas City area. He and his wife Diane are looking forward to spending more time with their grandsons.

The UMKC Foundation, launched in 2009, is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves as the official fundraising and fund management organization for UMKC.