MEMORABLE COLLEAGUES – Kathryn Roper Costello 1942-2016

By: David Shufflebarger, Senior Partner

One of the joys of our work in development is the opportunity to get to know some extraordinary philanthropists who define what I mean when I say ‘good people.’ Another is working with exceptional colleagues. I was reminded of that when I learned that Kathy Costello died March 20. She was ‘good people.’

For me, Kathy and Curt Simic are the archetype for the advancement vice presidency. Kathy began her career under legendary Chancellor Alexander Herd and went on to vice presidencies at Rice University, Southern Methodist University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the University of Maryland, the University of Georgia, the University of Buffalo, and Western Kentucky University.

Curt, President Emeritus of the Indiana University Foundation, began his career at IU, his alma mater. After serving in development roles at Yale University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Alabama, he held vice presidencies at the University of Oregon, and the University of California-Berkeley, where he directed the largest fundraising campaign ever conducted at a public university at the time.

Both were generous with their time teaching countless sessions at Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) conferences and serving on its Board of Trustees. Curt always makes himself available to match notes on intriguing questions that come up from time to time.

Kathy was a partner at Alexander Haas between vice presidencies, and I got to see her help a regional state university campaign move from modest beginnings to a transformational conclusion. That was only one of several engagements where she employed her exceptional leadership skills to advance a client’s mission with philanthropy.

I saw her as a Steel Magnolia for her courage to fight with powerful leaders, including the governor, for transparency at SMU when the NCAA imposed the ‘death penalty’ on its football team.  Similarly, she tackled tough issues head on at the University of Georgia during internecine battles between the University and its Foundation.

That courage was on ample display when I talked with her recently about her battle with cancer. Despite considerable pain, she was upbeat and convicted. We were indeed fortunate to have her as a colleague and shall miss her greatly.