Actor John Goodman, a Missouri State University alum, is flanked by Clif Smart, MSU President, left, and Brent Dunn, executive director of the MSU Foundation. Goodman was chair of the "Onward, Upward" campaign and MSU announced Oct. 29 that it had raised $274 million. (Photo by David Stoeffler)

Brent Dunn, Missouri State University’s No. 1 fundraiser, has accepted a $150,000 incentive agreement from MSU and will not be leaving the university.

In November, he and the university announced he would exit MSU on Aug. 1 for a new job raising money for the Missouri State Fair Foundation.

Dunn said Tuesday the foundation has been “understanding” of his decision to stay at Missouri State.

“Certainly, after spending 38 years at the university, you have a love for the university,” Dunn said Tuesday. “It was a tough decision, but I have to look for what is best for the future of my family. And Clif (Smart) can be persuasive.”

Brent Dunn, MSU vice president for university advancement. (Photo: Missouri State University)

$75,000 after three years; another $75,000 for two more years

University President Clif Smart said Tuesday the incentive is this:

  • If Dunn, 61, stays at MSU for another three years he will receive a payment of $75,000.
  • If Dunn stays another two years beyond that, he will receive an additional payment of $75,000.

Dunn’s current annual salary if $175,000.

Clif Smart, Joe Turner of Great Southern Bank, and Brent Dunn pose for a photo in front of the mockup of the newly named Great Southern Bank Arena (Photo by Shannon Cay)

A five-year commitment would take Dunn beyond the expected tenure of Smart, who said again on Tuesday he does not plan to work beyond his current contract, which is good for another 3 years and 3 months.

“I frankly think he wanted to stay here,” Smart said of Dunn. “I began to hear from several people that Brent was having second thoughts.”

A successful history of raising funds

Dunn is vice president for university advancement and executive director of the Missouri State Foundation. He has been the school’s longest-serving fund raiser and had been the most successful.

He oversaw the the five-year “Onward, Upward” campaign that concluded in October 2022. The university raised $274 million and the following areas benefited:

  • Academic programs — more than $118 million
  • New scholarships — nearly $80 million
  • New buildings and facility improvements — more than $70 million
  • Faculty support — $5 million.

The additional two years and the accompanying additional $75,000 are particularly important, Smart said, because Dunn will be working with the next MSU president and helping that person build relationships with university donors.

Dunn graduated from Springfield 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.

Back in November, Dunn told the Springfield Daily Citizen 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,” he said at the time.

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

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