After more than five years of raising funds for Cornell University athletics, Kevin Sackett ’10 decided to lend his considerable higher education advancement skills to his alma mater.
He started in March as a major gifts officer. In August, his duties were expanded to planned giving as well.
“I love working with our constituent base,” said Sackett, who was a sport management major and standout Red Dragon wrestler from Webster, N.Y. “I think they are down to earth, well-rounded people.
“I look at myself as a conduit to help them either re-engage or get further engaged with Cortland,” Sackett. said. “I want to be their go-to person for any questions or concerns. I form many meaningful personal relationships with alumni but that’s secondary to assisting them in any way I can.”
Although the major gifts and planned giving officer is now considered the first person to contact on things like estate planning and charitable remainder trusts and annuities, Sackett continues to reach out for major gifts from many of the College’s most loyal alumni. Since joining the College, he estimates that he has lunched, dined or met formally with some 80 graduates and connected with hundreds of alumni in his capacity with the College’s Division for Institutional Advancement.
The scope of their career choices never ceases to astonish him.
“It opened up my eyes, having gone here as a student a decade ago,” Sackett said. “I thought I had a sense of what many grads were doing. I now see how far-reaching a network our alumni have formed finding success in a vast array of endeavors.”
A case in point is how his own athletics-focused career path took a turn.
As a student, Sackett was captain of the SUNY Cortland varsity wrestling team, achieving NCAA Division III Scholar All-America honors, twice earning All-Conference Honors and ranking sixth all-time in Cortland wrestling wins at the time of graduation.
Moreover, between his junior and senior year, Sackett completed an internship with Cornell University’s Athletic Department.
“I had wanted to work in collegiate athletics, which was kind of my door into higher education,” Sackett said.
“After I graduated, I returned to Cornell in what was originally a temporary position as the housing director for camps.” The summer ended, and he moved into a new role as assistant ticket manager in the university’s athletic ticket office. One year later, he made the move to alumni affairs and development, and had most recently served as Cornell’s assistant director for athletic alumni affairs and development.
“My particular role encompassed both event work, fundraising and volunteer management,” Sackett explained. “At the end of the day, a lot of my responsibilities and goals revolved around fundraising.”
He worked to steward relationships with former athletes, other alumni and potential benefactors at dozens of athletic special events. Sackett’s responsibilities included the day-to-day operations of the department’s $5 to $6 million current-use annual fundraising efforts.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunities I was given and the experience I gained at Cornell,” he said.
Before joining the College, Sackett had maintained close ties to his alma mater.
In 2013, he served together with his wife, Stephanie Petfield Sackett ’08, M ’09, as co-overnight supervisors at the Parks Alumni House. They now live in Lansing, N.Y., with their daughter, Annabelle.
In 2016, he became one of the youngest directors on the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association Board, focusing his energies on its committee dedicated to advancing the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House. Now he feels he knows the College and its alumni well. Sackett finds SUNY Cortland’s graduates to be physically active and focused on the well-being of themselves and others as well as involved in their local communities.
“I think many alumni are grateful to the College,” he also noted. “Many of them are first-generation college students.”
Tuition was free until the early 1960s and very low for the next decade.
“People are grateful they were able to have an opportunity to go on and do great things,” Sackett said. “They are generous as far as being service-minded and want to give back to current and future generations of students. They are definitely a giving group of people — of their time and energies as well as financial support.”
Sackett looks to meet more alumni and ultimately to channel that school spirit into new ways to serve their alma mater. He stands ready to bridge any gap, whether he assists someone with tracking down a former classmate or sharing with a constituent what’s new at SUNY Cortland. He can be reached at 607-758-5309. For more information about giving to SUNY Cortland, visit cortland.giftlegacy.com.
“Whether it’s the situation of finding information for a niece or nephew who is considering enrolling at Cortland, or whether they want to know where they should be earmarking their year-end gift, I might not know all the answers but I will help them, either by getting back to them with an answer or putting them in touch with the right person.”