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Architecture Alum Helps Bring UC to D.C.

Todd DeGarmo

DAAP Alum Todd DeGarmo

Ask any of the more than 260,000 UC alumni what their favorite part of the university is and you’ll likely get a myriad of different answers. From athletics, business, law and engineering to performing arts, design, medicine (and everything else in between), UC means many things to many people.

It can be hard to maintain these connections over time, especially when distance takes the most passionate Bearcats away from Clifton. But thanks to the efforts of alumni like Todd DeGarmo (DAAP ’82), more graduates and friends across the country are sustaining a relationship while helping current students through meaningful private support.

When Todd’s career as CEO and Principal of STUDIOS Architecture took him away from Cincinnati, his appreciation for UC led him to build a base of Bearcat supporters in his hometown of Washington, D.C. And along with dozens of great volunteers –and the inspiring generosity of alumni and friends – Todd helped raise more than $20 million during the Proudly Cincinnati campaign from the D.C. region.

As Chairman of Washington D.C. Campaign Committee, Todd knew it was important to aim high, even though there wasn’t a historically strong base of engagement in D.C. However, few people could have anticipated such an astounding level of success. “When we first got started, our goal was actually to just bring in as many people as we could, and hopefully raise $8 million over five years,” Todd says. 

“In the beginning,” Todd continues, “I approached the challenge (how do we get the word out about UC, the campaign, and get people involved) in the same way I would a design problem, as an architect. I knew that building the best team possible was going to be critical, and I was fortunate to find such great people who offer a variety of different ideas.”

Having a good committee was also important due to the sheer size of the region, as well as the number of alumni and friends they hoped to engage during the campaign. “That’s actually another piece of wisdom I’ve picked up from being a CEO,” Todd says. “It’s good to set the tone as a leader, but you can’t expect to be successful by doing everything yourself.”

As the campaign unfolded, Todd and his team began holding events and meetings with alumni who were interested in getting reconnected with UC. As a sign of things to come, Todd notes that many of those early meetings ended the same way.

degarmo

For his remarkable accomplishments, Todd was presented with the 2012 Trustees Award (pictured above with Steve Wilson) at the George Rieveschl Dinner by the UC Foundation Board of Trustees. Todd has been a UC Foundation Trustee since 2008, is a member of Sigma Sigma, and has generously supported DAAP as well as other UC priorities.

“The more we got out and told people about UC and Proudly Cincinnati, and talked to them about their student experience, the more we would hear they wanted to get involved,” Todd remembers. “Washington is full of successful people, and those (alumni) we spoke with felt indebted to UC for fostering that success through education as well as their co-op assignments.”

Todd adds that the tradition of philanthropy seen around the city also strengthened their case. “Many people in the area enjoy giving to causes that are important to them, such as museums or historical societies, and we would often hear that they viewed UC in the same way: as a cause that deserved their support.”

Over time, Todd and his committee grew and gained experience reaching out to alumni and corporate partners, such as those who held co-op relationships with UC. Through this growth, they also learned about what was most effective in reconnecting those who hadn’t been to UC in decades or more: bringing a part of UC to D.C.

 “In Washington, as in a lot of larger cities, there are events happening all the time.” Todd explains. “So it wasn’t enough for us to hold a happy hour or a party and expect people to show up. Our most successful gatherings were when we matched alumni with their particular passion – design, CCM, law – and fostered that feeing by showing them what was new, or by introducing them to a well-known alum.”

“Then, they had a much better connection to UC, and could see what their investment would make possible.”

One of these events in particular stands out as one of Todd’s favorite moments of the campaign. In 2011, the committee sponsored a forum that featured two prominent UC alumni – Billy Martin (Law ’76) and Brig Owens (Education ’65). The forum, Handling the Pressures of Immediate Fame, focused on both Martin and Owens’ experience in advising young athletes, and also gave both men an opportunity to share how UC factored into their life stories.

“It was powerful for me because I saw such different perspectives of how people come to UC, and what UC can mean to people’s lives,” Todd says. “I knew I wanted to be an architect since I was five, and knew I wanted to go to UC because of excellent programs at DAAP soon after, so hearing about someone who took another path was fascinating.”

“I also was inspired by how they achieved success – in such an organic way through hard work and entrepreneurship.”

Todd and his colleagues have seen many memorable moments since their efforts got underway in 2005. They have twice surpassed their regional campaign goals, first moving past $8 million, and then $10 million a short time later. They also joined alumni, friends and fellow committees all over the country in celebrating when UC announced it had surpassed the billion-dollar milestone in Proudly Cincinnati earlier this year.

Now, as the campaign moves toward its conclusion in June, they can take pride in knowing their efforts have made a tremendous difference for the students, faculty and staff of UC.

“I think it’s important to set the bar high no matter what you’re trying to accomplish.” Todd says. “What we’ve been able to do in Washington, and what other committees have been able to do around the country, mirrors what UC has done by raising more than one billion dollars. We have raised expectations of what is possible and set the stage for even greater accomplishments in the future.”