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Swarthmore’s Interim Vice President for Advancement

Dear Faculty and Staff Members, 

I am following up on my message from last month about the leadership transition within the Advancement Office. It is my pleasure to share with you that Sarah Pearson has accepted my offer to serve as Swarthmore’s interim vice president for advancement.

Sarah brings to Swarthmore more than four decades of fundraising experience, the vast majority of which comes from leadership positions at colleges and universities. Most recently, Sarah served as vice president for college advancement at Bates College, her alma mater, where she spent more than a decade before retiring in 2022. During her tenure there, she led a team of 50 individuals and oversaw the successful completion of the largest fundraising campaign in Bates’ history, raising $346 million, surpassing the goal of $300 million. At the conclusion of the campaign, John Gillespie, the chair of Bates’ Board of Trustees at the time, credited Sarah for managing the campaign “with immense skill and boundless enthusiasm.”

Before Bates, Sarah was the chief development officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a multidisciplinary community of researchers aimed at improving human health. Before that, she was vice president for alumni relations and development at Northwestern University, where she helped increase annual fundraising from $100 million to $275 million. Sarah also served for seven years as associate vice president of development at The University of Chicago, where she oversaw the individual giving teams and directed campaign planning for the university’s $2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. She has also held positions at Cornell and Harvard.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Bates, Sarah earned a Master of Fine Arts from Brandeis University. She was a trustee for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and served as chair of CASE’s National Philanthropy Commission. Sarah was also a member of the Bates Board of Trustees.

Sarah plans to temporarily relocate to the area during her interim appointment, which will officially begin on August 5.

We will commence a national search for the College’s next vice president for advancement this fall, and I will share more details on that process as they become available. 

My thanks to Sarah for agreeing to take on this interim appointment. I am confident that, under her leadership and in collaboration with our talented team in Advancement, we will continue to serve our alumni community well and make meaningful progress toward our fundraising goals in support of the College’s mission. 


Val Smith