UM Foundation names Cindy Williams as new CEO

Cindy Williams

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

A longtime employee of the University of Montana Foundation will lead the organization into its next chapter, one that will see increased efforts to build relationships with the school’s growing list of supporters.

The foundation this week named Cindy Williams as its new CEO, a promotion that continues her climb through the foundation’s ranks. She replaces former foundation director Shane Giese, who retired earlier this year.

“It means a great deal to me to have this opportunity to lead our intrepid staff and work alongside our dedicated board,” Williams said on Tuesday. “I’ve worked here for almost 11 years and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with our donors and working with our incredibly talented team.”

Williams joined the foundation in 2006, first serving as the director of development and alumni relations for the UM School of Business Administration. She later advanced to become the vice president for development, where she led a team of officers in securing private gifts on behalf of various colleges, schools and other units on campus.

Over the past few years, the foundation has seen donor support climb, exceeding $50 million in each of the past few years.

“There’s been a tremendous outpouring of private support from alumni and friends over the last three years,” said Williams. “There’s been tremendous growth. We know our donors believe in this university and its ability to change lives, advance economic opportunities and conduct research.”

Williams, who comes from Spokane and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Walla Walla University, said the foundation will continue to build upon its strengths under her leadership.

While the past few years have seen successes, she believes the foundation can do more to build its internal operating capacity and grow its budget to increase the work it does with donors.

“There’s even greater opportunity to bring private support to the campus,” Williams said. “We’ve had great success over the past few years, but I know there’s even greater support out there. Our work is so driven by relationships with our donors and alumni, and retaining that talented staff is very important.”

Private support for the university is key to the school’s long-term health. Donations go to support scholarships, support faculty through endowed positions and augment programs.

They also fund campus buildings, including the new Champions Center and the Payne Family Native American Center, among many others.

“After launching our search, we came to the conclusion that the best candidate was already here,” said Mary Olson, chair of the foundation’s board of directors. “Cindy brings a combination of vision for the future and contextual understanding of where we’ve been.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com