Brent Dunn, after 38 years, extends his contract with M.S.U. (Photo by Missouri State University/ Dan Curtis)

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Brent Dunn, Missouri State University’s driving force behind fundraising, announced Tuesday he will leave his post Aug. 1 and will take a similar position with the Missouri State Fair Foundation.

Dunn, 61, has worked at MSU 38 years. He said Wednesday morning he was not looking for a new job when he heard about the post at the Missouri State Fair Foundation.

“I don’t job hop, obviously,” he said. “I told Clif I could work here another 10 years.”

He was referring to MSU President Clif Smart.

Time to push beyond his “comfort zone”

Dunn said the timing was right for him to leave MSU. He and the university had just concluded a major fundraising campaign called Onward Upward.

“At the end of a campaign there is sort of a natural turning to a new chapter,” he said. “We still have got a lot of work to do at the university. I am still loving it. I am just as energized as I was 38 years ago.

“But it was time to push myself out of my comfort zone,” he said.

The Missouri State Fair Foundation has plans to expand the fair’s reach. Already, Dunn said, additional acreage has been purchased for the state fair, which is held annually in August in Sedalia.

“I thought it would be a fun opportunity,” he said. “I thought about it for quite some time. I have a new opportunity and a new challenge.

“You don’t live forever,” he said. “I am going to work for as long as I can.”

Worked as a news reporter through college

Dunn will work his upcoming job from his home in Nixa, where he has been on the school board 15 years. But he will travel the state to meet agriculture leaders and state officials.

Dunn graduated from Central High School in 1979. He was a student at what was then Southwest Missouri State from 1980 to 1985.

While a student, he worked full-time as a news reporter and news director at KWTO Radio, AM and FM.

He graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in communications.

Starts his career at MSU; what is ‘development’?

“There was a job opening in development and I didn’t have a clue as to what that was,” he said.

He started as director of annual giving. Later, he became athletics development director, until he took the executive director’s role in 2007. His title is executive director of the Missouri State University Foundation and vice president of university advancement.

“In his 38-year career at MSU, Brent has accomplished more than anyone ever thought possible,” said President Smart, in a press release from the university. “He is the university’s greatest advocate and has been tremendously important to our success.

“Because he genuinely loves the university, I know he will continue to be involved here the rest of his life,” Smart said in the press release. “I will, however, miss the regular interaction I have had the last 12 years with someone who has become a good friend.”

Missouri State University Clif Smart, left, greets the crowd for a celebration of a record-setting campaign that raised $274 million. He is joined by actor John Goodman, center, a Missouri State University alum, who chaired the campaign, along with Brent Dunn, executive director of the MSU Foundation. (Photo by David Stoeffler)

It can years, if not decades, to build relationships

Under Dunn’s leadership, the foundation showed tremendous growth.

“Brent builds and values relationships, and he’s created this incredible network of people who support the university’s priorities,” said Mark McQueary, chair of the foundation’s Board of Trustees, in the press release.

Dunn told the Springfield Daily Citizen Wednesday that it often takes years and even decades to build a relationship with a potential donor before they contribute.

“There are people that I started visiting with 38 years ago that maybe now are just coming about in investing in the institution.”

‘I have loved seeing the transformation’

Dunn also led the Our Promise campaign, which raised $167 million. He participated in The Campaign for SMS, which raised more than $50 million.

“What we’ve been able to do at Missouri State, thanks to the friends of the university, has been nothing short of incredible,” Dunn said in the press release. “I have loved seeing the transformation and experiencing the campus through so many iterations.

“I cannot imagine a day where I don’t attend an MSU event or share the great stories of the many students, faculty, alumni and staff I am privileged to know,” he said in the press release.

The university will conduct a national search for Dunn’s replacement.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin