WSU names new VP for advancement, head of foundation


Washington State University appointed Mike Connell to the permanent role of vice president for advancement and CEO of the WSU Foundation after concluding an internal search that began in October.

Connell has served in the position in an acting capacity since February, according to WSU President Kirk Schulz. In an announcement Monday, he said Connell is a valuable asset to the university.

“Mike is an exceptional fundraiser and experienced manager who has nurtured strong, collaborative relationships across the system,” Schulz said. “I have the utmost confidence in him and the entire advancement team to grow a robust culture of philanthropy and engagement across the entire WSU community to achieve our ambitious goals.”

Advancement efforts at the university hope to build support through philanthropy and alumni engagement. The foundation has raised more than $1.7 billion in private donations to support students, faculty and staff since it was established in 1979.

Connell graduated from WSU with a business degree in 1985 and brings 33 years of experience in advancement to the role. He’ll officially begin his new job Dec. 1.

“My life’s work has been about people helping people,” he said. “I am excited to serve my alma mater and for the opportunities we have to advance WSU in many tangible and meaningful ways.”

In fiscal year 2021, the foundation surpassed its goal for total philanthropic activity. Fiscal year 2022 is already trending more than $8.2 million, or 19 percent, ahead of last year’s numbers.

While Connell started as a development coordinator for WSU Spokane, he’s served in numerous other positions at the university including director of athletic development, senior director of gift planning and senior associate vice president of individual giving. In 2018 he was appointed as senior associate vice president of principal giving.

As acting vice president and CEO, he recently led the formation of a Campaign Organizing Committee and guided the foundation’s Board of Directors through a restructure of their governance.

“I love WSU, and it’s a great privilege to work with the incredible Cougar family of alumni and friends to grow our land-grant mission to provide education, research, and outreach that benefit the state of Washington and the world,” Connell said.

Palermo can be reached at or on Twitter @apalermotweets.

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