Winship reflects on decades of fundraising for the University
Working 80+ hour weeks and traveling up to 33 weeks of the year never bothered Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement Nancy Winship. “I guess I’m a competitive person,” she laughed, looking back on over 23 years of fundraising for the University. “It’s been a labor of love; it’s been a joy.”
Winship, who joined the University in 1994, will be transitioning to a new role on campus: Chief Philanthropic Advisor to the President, effective June 30.
Winship explained that she decided to take a step back with this new position to spend more time with her family. She recalled the clash in schedules when her husband Christopher, who taught at Harvard, would take sabbaticals, telling him jokingly, “‘Your sabbaticals are getting in the way of my work.’”
In the Office of Institutional Advancement, Winship has helped raise more than $1.5 billion, with $1.2 billion of those funds raised together with former University President Jehuda Reinharz, who served from 1994 to 2010, according to a Jan. 18 BrandeisNOW article.
Though her career has not been without interesting moments — on some trips, women would ask her incredulously, “‘Your husband lets you travel? But who makes his coffee in the morning?’” — Winship said she has enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with a diverse group of people.
In particular, she spoke fondly of time spent fundraising with the late Myra Kraft ’64, for whom the University’s Transitional Year Program is named. “Myra could call anyone, and they would pick up the phone,” Winship said.
“I loved Myra’s values,” she added. “Myra had a tremendous effect on our students because she believed in them.”
Additional highlights of her career have included various run-ins with some of the University’s honorary degree recipients and honorees.
She spoke about meeting Barbra Streisand H’95, who received her first honorary degree from the University, laughing as she recalled the long velvet train Streisand wore to the commencement ceremony.
Winship also reflected on the Dalai Lama’s visit to campus in 1998, during which he and several community members held Shabbat dinner at Reinharz’s home. “[The Dalai Lama] wanted to do Shabbat,” she said. “He wanted to see what kept the Jewish people together.”
“Just the fact that so many of these people come [to Brandeis],” she said, is honor enough.
With so many fond memories, taking a step back from the University has been hard, Winship admitted. “I live and breathe Brandeis,” she said, joking that she would rather amputate a limb than leave campus.
She added that she was not allowed on college tours with her two sons, as she would just remind them about how much better she thought Brandeis was in comparison to other schools. Fortunately for her, her sons David ’10 and Michael Winship ’13 joined her at the University.
Still, she said, the upcoming transition was a necessary one, made easier with the July arrival of University President Ronald Liebowitz.
“I have 100 percent confidence in [Liebowitz],” she said. “He loves the students, he’s so honored to work with this faculty and he has a vision.”
From her time spent traveling and fundraising with Liebowitz, Winship said she has noticed one important thing: “People talk to him. Why? Because he’s open; he’s honest; he’s transparent,” she said.
Winship would know what good leadership looks like: She’s worked under seven chairmen of the University’s Board of Trustees. “Each one led this University through good times and challenging times,” she said.
As the University ages, Winship has also watched the Board of Trustees transfer from a predominantly Friends of Brandeis — members of the community who did not attend the University — makeup to a more alumni-based leadership. “It really is all about alumni,” she said.
And despite the crucial role fundraising plays in a university the size of Brandeis, where the programs and infrastructure needed often do not align with the resources at hand, Winship said she maintains a positive outlook on the University’s future.
She remembered one instance where a faculty member told her, “‘You know, I don’t know what this place would be like if it really had a lot of money, … because maybe we wouldn’t be so interdisciplinary and cooperative.’”
“In some ways, I hope Brandeis raises a lot of money in the future, … but I do understand that part of the magic of Brandeis is [that we are] always striving,” Winship said. “We need to have many more resources, but I also understand the kind of community that comes out of us working together. … We are the Little Engine that Could.”