hutcheson.jpgMIAMI GARDENS – Florida Memorial University has added an experienced fundraising professional to its senior management team.

Sumner Hutcheson III, who spent 30 years with the American Red Cross and has served in senior positions at Bethune-Cookman University and Florida International University, joined the historically black university as its vice president for institutional advancement on April 21.

“We're pleased to have him join our university family, and we look forward to his contributions in the area of fundraising,” FMU President Karl S. Wright said about the announcement.

Hutcheson, 58, a Miami native who now lives in Miramar, began as a youth services program coordinator with the Greater Miami chapter of the American Red Cross in 1972, and rose to various regional and national positions within the organization.

He served as CEO of the American Red Cross of Central Florida from 1997 to 2002. He served as vice president of university advancement for Bethune-Cookman University, where he is an alumnus, from 2003 to 2005, and then as associate vice president for development and interim vice president for university advancement for Florida International University.

He returns to institutional work after a brief stint as an independent fundraising consultant.

“What lured me back was the chance to make a difference in my community, where I was born and raised,” Hutcheson said. “We have an opportunity [at Florida Memorial] to affect a diverse community of youth, but particularly African-American youth.”

The school, founded in 1879 as the Florida Baptist Institute in Live Oak, Florida, relocated to St.
Augustine in 1918, on part of a 110-acre tract of land known as “Old Homes Plantation,’’ formerly one of the largest slave plantations in the state, according to the university’s website.

The school became Florida Memorial College in 1963, and moved to its current location in what is now Miami Gardens in 1968.

The university celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1979, and began a series of expansion projects on the 44-acre site. The institution changed its name in December 2004 to Florida Memorial University.

FMU offers 41 undergraduate and four graduate degree programs through its six academic schools.

Yet its need for fundraising is underscored by the size of its endowment.

Florida Memorial had a $9.5 million endowment as of 2005, about $4,800 per student, according to the university's web-site. By comparison, the University of Miami's 2007 endowment was approximately $741 million, or about $48,000 for each of its 15,000 students, according to a 2007 Endowment Study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Hutcheson said he hopes to close the gap, adding that his priorities in the new position will be to work closely with Wright and other university officials to identify funding priorities.

“The goal is to begin to cultivate relationships in the community that are going to lead to major gifts,” he said, adding that he also foresees a planned giving campaign focused on estate gifts and charitable annuities, as well as a comprehensive campaign in the future.

Mostly, Hutcheson said, he is an enthusiastic booster of Florida Memorial, especially its strength in educating teachers.

Florida Memorial is ranked second in the state and ninth in the nation for graduating African-American teachers, he said.

“We're one of the largest universities in Florida and in the southeast when it comes to educating educators,” he said. “We're training many of the people who are teaching our young people in this community.”

He said he plans to build on those community ties to benefit the university.

Photo: Sumner Hutcheson III