In the winter of 1987, a basketball player at Mercer University played in a holiday tournament against the Bulls at the USF Sun Dome. Roughly 30 years later, Jay Stroman is now the senior vice president of advancement and alumni affairs and CEO of the USF Foundation.
After former CEO Joel Momberg retired from the job in October 2019, Jay Stroman was selected for the position in late February and has been in office since June 1. Among his job duties, he is responsible for fundraising and distributing millions of dollars in funds that have already been given to the university.
“The USF Foundation receives all the donations for the University of South Florida, and I have the responsibility to invest those funds to help support the students, faculty and university,” Stroman said.
In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the USF Foundation raised over $111 million in donations and has an endowment of $513.5 million, according to the USF Foundation Performance Report.
Although he is new to the university, Stroman comes with years of experience in the field of advancement, which focuses on alumni relations, internal and external communication, raising and allocating funds, and focusing on the betterment of a university.
Stroman worked at Mercer University for over 10 years in the advancement field, where he helped raise $360 million for its campaign. Then, he worked for six years in advancement and development at Young Harris College in north Georgia, where he helped raise $75 million for the school.
From 2015 until coming to USF, Stroman was the senior associate vice president for development and alumni relations at the University of Georgia (UGA), and in his first year at UGA, he helped raise $144.2 million for the university.
In total, he has over 20 years of experience in the fields of advancement and business.
Throughout his life, Stroman has slowly moved more south. He was born and raised in Nashville, then lived in Georgia for decades and he’ll now be taking up residence in Tampa. He said Tampa is another reason he chose to accept the position at USF.
“I have traveled to Tampa and done business for a lot of universities in Tampa and always found it to be a great city with a lot going on,” Stroman said. “It is a really important city and is doing great things with a huge opportunity for a partnership between the city and the university moving forward.”
With all his years of expertise, Stroman said he is not coming in with a set plan for changes or goals to act on right away.
“This first year I’m on what I call a ‘listening and learning’ tour where I want to meet with everyone internally and externally and see all the wonderful things happening at the university,” he said. “After that is when we will start to develop some goals.”
Even though Stroman comes to USF with years of experience, he said he never would have imagined being in this career when he was in college.
“Nobody goes to school to do what we do,” Stroman joked. “I graduated from business school, but was thinking of going into the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] or Secret Service. Then a coach at Mercer asked me about coaching, and I was an assistant basketball coach there. I decided to get into the development work when the president at Mercer said it might be a good career for me, and he was right.”
The people and mission behind his job are main reasons Stroman said he finds what he does exciting.
“We are here to serve the university, and that means serving the students, faculty and staff,” Stroman said. “We are a support unit for the university which is meaningful work because we get to go out and connect with people, organizations and foundations that want to make an impact on students’ lives, faculty and bettering the university.”
He gives credit to the recruitment team and USF President Steven Currall for why he accepted the position, as Stroman said he was not looking to leave Georgia at the time he got the call to work at USF.
“My position at UGA was really incredible and had great success, but the more conversations I had and the more I learned about the opportunity, the more this seemed like a good opportunity for me,” Stroman said. “USF is one of the top rising schools in the country, and has great leadership and I wanted to be a part of that.”
According to Stroman, he said that the leadership at USF is what really enticed him into being a part of the USF community and working so closely with all those in leadership positions.
“I got to know the president and really liked what he stood for and what his vision was,” Stroman said. “The foundation always wants to be in lockstep with the president’s vision and see how we can help the university succeed.”
Currall has expressed his approval of Stroman being selected for the position and his excitement for what he brings to the table in this leadership position.
“Jay is a dynamic development leader who will build strong relationships with our alumni and community supporters, advocate for the university’s top priorities and develop creative strategies for sustainable philanthropy,” Currall said in a press release on March 2.
“His demonstrated track record of cultivating significant giving, as well as his enthusiasm for higher education makes him the perfect fit for our next chapter as a university.”
Right off the bat, Stroman had to adjust his usual way of working due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It has shifted how he and his team interact and conduct their business.
“We are in the people business so this means we are out meeting with people and hosting events, but now this is all happening virtually,” Stroman said. “We have had to kind of pause and rethink how we connect with people and this has taken a while for people to get comfortable with.”
The job itself is very fulfilling despite current limitations, according to Stroman.
“The donors are unbelievably caring individuals who want to do good things and help people succeed, so it is a very rewarding job based on the people we get to interact with on a daily basis,” he said.
Getting to know the people associated with USF and the foundation is something he aspires to achieve in his first year in office.
“My job is to come in and learn as much as possible and meet as many people I can,” Stroman said.