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The Next Great Initiative

Jay Gundy (Grad ’79) sees opportunities in Jefferson Trust

Jay Gundy

With his appointment as executive director of the Jefferson Trust, James A. “Jay” Gundy (Grad ’79) takes charge of a program rooted in tradition.

“The Alumni Association has an impressive history for initiating ventures that measurably strengthen the University,” says Gundy. “Today’s Virginia Athletic Foundation began in Alumni Hall as the Virginia Student Aid Foundation. And Jefferson Scholars now ranks as one of the preeminent merit scholarship programs in America. The Board of Managers envisions the Jefferson Trust as the Alumni Association’s next great initiative.”

Gundy was appointed in October to the post in the Alumni Association, where he also is vice president of development. He had a similar development position at the Darden School of Business, where he oversaw annual, corporate and leadership giving in the Campaign for Darden.

A native of McKeesport, Pa., Gundy studied at UVA after graduating from Wittenberg University and serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. He received a master’s degree in rhetoric and communications studies, then worked as assistant admissions dean at UVA and associate director at Cornell University before joining the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa.. He spent two decades there as assistant headmaster.

Gundy brings a variety of skills to a program the Alumni Board of Managers believes will play a vital role in the University’s future, and he recently shared some information and insights about the Jefferson Trust.

What is the Jefferson Trust?

The trust is an unrestricted endowment that distributes funds annually through a Grounds-wide grant program to support scholarship, teaching, research, facilities and the institutional character of the University.

Why is an unrestricted endowment so important?

While all gifts to the University are appreciated deeply, I am convinced gifts invested in unrestricted endowments are the most powerful, visionary and practical contributions anyone can give. Jefferson Trust donors understand they cannot predict the needs of the University 25 years, 10 years, or even five years from now. Consequently, trust donors are building a permanent funding reservoir that can respond with real agility to emerging initiatives.

What is the Jefferson Trust’s record so far?

In the last three years, the Jefferson Trust has provided $1,097,321 for 23 projects in the arts, historic preservation, residential life, global understanding, health care and community service. Grants averaged $47,710 and ranged from $5,000 to $150,000. While no guidelines prescribe the amount of grants, two-thirds of those approved have ranged from $20,000 to $75,000. On Founder’s Day in April, the trustees will announce 14 new grants, raising the four-year tally to 37 and total funding to $1,473,972. Projects range from helping to improve the quality of drinking water in rural South Africa to enabling the Virginia Glee Club to recover and record traditional UVA songs.

With such tight University budgets, shouldn’t the Jefferson Trust’s assets help fill budget gaps?

No, that isn’t its purpose. When funds are tight, too often great new ideas are the invisible victims overlooked in favor of established programs. In tough times, great universities either move forward or move backward; there are no safe plateaus. Realistically, the University’s only choice is to advance ambitiously. By its mission and flexibility, the Jefferson Trust intentionally encourages an enterprising spirit so essential to a vibrant, forward-thinking university. The trustees challenge students, faculty and organizations to request funding for new enterprising opportunities that will strengthen the student experience and extend our global reach.

As the executive director, what excites you most about the Jefferson Trust?

Very simply, I believe the way in which trustee donors manage the grant program offers a unique opportunity to be involved with a University committed to active alumni engagement. Beyond gifts, the trustees apply their wisdom effectively and work diligently through the annual grant review process. This year, for example, they carefully reviewed 46 grant applications, a 350 percent increase over last year. While their time commitments were significant, they embraced the task enthusiastically. Awarding grants gives them a legitimate opportunity to make a measurable difference at the University they love so much.

Is the Jefferson Trust part of the University’s $3 billion campaign?

Indeed, it is. Over the course of the remaining 35 months of the campaign, we will seek gifts totaling an additional $7.3 million for the Jefferson Trust endowment. Donors learn quickly their gifts have a real impact within 12 months. Equally important, because of the unusual range of funded projects, alumni and parents who invest their campaign gifts in the Jefferson Trust make great ventures possible on Grounds and around the world.