by Max Brantley
University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart today announced that Chris Wyrick, currently the executive director of the Razorback Foundation, has agreed to join Gearhart’s senior administrative team as the next vice chancellor for university advancement.
Gearhart made the announcement at an event held in the lobby of the university’s Administration Building. More than 100 U of A alumni, donors, university students, faculty and staff gathered for the announcement.
UPDATE: A spokesman said Wyrick and the chancellor have signed an offer letter that will establish Wyrick's salary at $279,000 once he assumes his new position.
The rest of the news release follows on the jump. It doesn't recap the discovery that the Advancement Division under Brad Choate's leadership had been discovered to be overspending at a rate of $4-5 million a year. That Choate was removed — at full pay — while a female subordinate had her pay slashed. That the UA has stonewalled request for complete details on the overspending and been sued by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. That the Razorback Foundation, though joined at the hip with the university through ticket sales and pay of coaches and financed in part by premiums on tickets sold by the university for university events, has steadfastly refused accountability of its activities. But you knew all that.
“After several months of careful thought and consultation, I have selected our new vice chancellor for university advancement from within the U of A family,” Gearhart said as he introduced Wyrick. “Chris has more than 20 years of successful fundraising experience in higher education, including positions at the University of South Carolina, North Carolina State University, and Vanderbilt University. He has been with the University of Arkansas since 2008, and in that time has established himself as a superstar, highly regarded and admired by his colleagues.”
In making the announcement, Gearhart was joined by Johnelle Hunt, a longtime U of A supporter and one of three chairs of the Campaign Arkansas steering committee, the group of volunteers who are helping plan the university’s next capital campaign.
“Chris embodies the enthusiasm and advocacy everyone on the campaign steering committee feels,” Hunt stated. “A steady, experienced hand is needed—preferably one who has already earned the confidence and respect of the committee, and one who has shown he will go the extra mile and do things the right way. Chris has done all of those things.”
Wyrick, 45 and a native of Greensboro, N.C., said he was honored and humbled by Gearhart’s offer.
“I have not followed any predesigned career path or spent time worrying about what is next,” Wyrick explained. “I have instead focused on work that I can be passionate about and giving it ‘one thousand percent.’ I will do all of that in my new role.”
Wyrick said he has learned a great deal from his service at several universities and is anxious to apply that knowledge to his new role.
“I have seen what a first-rate advancement division looks like, how it is run, and what kind of impact it can have on a university,” Wyrick said. “I welcome the challenge of fulfilling Chancellor Gearhart’s vision of making this university a Top 50 public research university.
“There is a huge capital campaign on the horizon that will be instrumental in making that happen,” Wyrick continued. “I look forward to working with our campus leaders, deans, department heads, professors, and students to make their dreams come true.”
Gearhart explained that Wyrick’s starting date as vice chancellor will be determined once Wyrick is able to work with his Razorback Foundation board and staff on a transition plan. In the meantime, Gearhart will continue to oversee the advancement division, which includes the university’s fundraising, communications, and alumni offices as well as the university’s special events and community relations units.
The vice chancellor for university advancement also has administrative responsibility for the university-affiliated World Trade Center Arkansas, based in Rogers.
During his remarks, Gearhart read an enthusiastic statement of support and congratulations from Jeff Long, the university’s vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s announcement. Wyrick was one of Long’s senior administrators before Wyrick took over the not-for-profit Razorback Foundation in 2012.
Wyrick is a 1992 graduate of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., and has won several awards for his fundraising leadership and successes. He and his wife Merrily have been married for 20 years. They live in Fayetteville with their daughters Caroline, 15, and Caitlin, 12.