It was an auspicious start to an unexpectedly long career.
The day Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones played in the UNI-Dome, Bill Calhoun, M.A. ‘79, began as the assistant director for development with the university.
“In 1981, we had a professional staff of three people,” Calhoun recalled. “We kept our assets in a lockbox under the desk,” he joked.
Bill Calhoun, vice president of advancement and president of UNI Foundation, prepares to retire after 33 years on campus
Almost 33 years later, as Calhoun prepares to retire, things look a little different around the office. The Advancement division now has 40 employees; the UNI Foundation’s endowment is $100+ million with total assets around $135 million – with no lockboxes in sight.
Calhoun has been a part of four major campaigns, worked for five UNI presidents and is proud to have played a small part in changing the face of the university. Over the course of his career, the UNI Foundation has helped bring the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, the McLeod Center and the Human Performance Center to campus, among others.
“The impact that we’ve had – the work of university staff and alumni – on our students is definitely a highlight for me. Whether it is making a UNI education possible or reducing their debt through scholarships, providing them opportunities outside the classroom, whatever it might be, it is all about supporting the students and making sure they have the best experience possible,” he said.
One of his most amazing career moments revolves around the McLeod Center. “We had our Foundation board on campus the same day that we opened the construction bids,” Calhoun said. “This was during a time when the prices of steel were going crazy - and not in a good way. In 45 minutes, the project went from $19 million to $24 million. Within a period of three hours, our board renewed their commitment and said ‘okay, we’re in.’ And then almost every single one of those trustees stepped up and made an additional gift to that project as a result. Talk about people who care and really want to make sure they have an impact on this university.”
Over the years, Calhoun has enjoyed witnessing some of UNI’s exciting moments first-hand. In New York City, he attended the Broadway premiere of “The Bridges of Madison County” with alumnus Robert Waller, B.A. ’62; he traveled to the national championship game with the UNI Football team and cheered on the UNI Basketball’s Sweet 16 appearance.
“UNI kids are Iowa’s best kids,” he said. “Wherever we go, I’m always impressed with our students. They do such a good job of wearing the UNI brand and being ambassadors for our university.”
Reflecting on his time at UNI, Calhoun said, “It’s all about the people. The people you work with every day, staff and colleagues, but also our alumni and friends. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet some really interesting people along the way who wanted to make a difference at UNI. I came here with the thought of staying four years and then looking at other opportunities, but I’ve been blessed by the wonderful opportunities right here. You always plan to go on to bigger and better. I could have gone to bigger; but in my opinion they were never better. It’s just a great place.“
A retirement celebration will be held for Calhoun on June 17 from 4-5:30 p.m. in the Georgian Lounge inside the Commons. Please view the invitation for more information.