Newswise — Following an extensive national search, the Hertz Foundation has named Wendy Connors as its new chief development officer.
Connors will serve as a member of the foundation’s executive team and oversee all aspects of fundraising, including solicitation of principal gifts, campaign planning, program design, and volunteer and board partnerships, reporting to Robbee Kosak, president of the Hertz Foundation.
“I am excited to meet with and engage support from our generous community of fellows and friends. The prestigious Hertz Fellowship emerged from visionary philanthropy, along with a commitment to advancing scientific innovation in pursuit of our national interests. It is a true privilege to partner with the Hertz community and build upon this legacy,” Connors said.
Connors joins the foundation with more than 20 years of experience in philanthropy, most recently as the executive director of the Office of External Relations at the Sloan School of Management. As part of MIT’s $6 billion Better World Campaign, Connors led global fundraising teams in support of faculty, students and strategic initiatives, securing more than $200 million. She notably led her team through a digital reorganization just as COVID-19 closed the doors to in-person meetings and gatherings.
Connors will play a pivotal role in building the foundation’s financial position and fully realizing its aspirations for the Hertz Fellowship program — the most prestigious graduate fellowship program in the U.S. — and the broader community of more than 1,200 Hertz Fellows, many of whom are among the nation’s most accomplished science and technology leaders. Her work will involve close collaboration with the Hertz staff, board of directors, donors, volunteers, and current and future organizational partners.
“The board’s strategic planning process is outlining a very ambitious and important vision for our foundation, and this role is critical in making it a reality,” said Kosak. “Wendy’s proven leadership and exceptional fundraising acumen will help build the next-generation Hertz Foundation.”
Connors’ work will support the development and implementation of the foundation’s strategic plan, namely securing increased funding to support the selection of up to 25 new fellows annually and offering enhanced programs that amplify the career success of all fellows, including professional skills, mentoring and career networking.
Connors was attracted to the Hertz Foundation from the moment she read the job description.
“I was so motivated by the mission of the organization, which is remarkable and compelling,” she said. “The opportunity to fuel science and technology innovation by directly funding scientists that are on the cutting edge of solving problems resonates with me. You can’t pick up the newspaper without seeing several major, complex issues facing our world, and you want the best minds addressing those issues.”
A native New Englander, Connors has been immersed in nonprofit service since she was a child. She accompanied her mother, a musician, to senior centers to sing for residents; her father served on nonprofit boards. She describes such service as a “family value” that informed her educational and career path. Connors earned a bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College and a master’s in education from Stanford University, specializing in evaluation and policy analysis.
When Connors graduated from college, she worked as an oil and gas research associate at an investment management firm in New York. “After several years there, I realized that I could apply my business experience to strengthening nonprofits,” she explained. “Twenty-plus years later, I haven’t looked back. I’ve found it incredibly gratifying.”
Connors has focused her career on building capacity within educational organizations. Prior to MIT, Connors directed a five-year, $80 million campaign at The Winsor School, a premier all-girls independent school in Boston, where she served as the associate director of advancement. Earlier in her career, she was the director of annual giving and led constituent relations for an independent school in Weston, Massachusetts.
Problem-solving is one of the ways in which Connors feeds her curious nature. She enjoys breaking down challenges into their most basic parts and figuring out how to remove the obstacles that create the problems. At MIT she appreciated the daily experience of working with some of the greatest scientific minds in the world and learning from them. She looks forward to continuing to learn from the Hertz community.
“I’m so humbled by the opportunity to join the Hertz Foundation at this time,” she explained. “It’s a privilege, and I’m excited to get started!”
Connors lives in Boston with her husband — a venture capitalist — and her two adult daughters and two dogs. When she isn’t working, she serves on the board of a small family foundation and enjoys cooking, skiing and reading. Currently on her bedside table is “The Smallest Lights in the Universe” by Sara Seager, an MIT astrophysicist who studies exoplanets. “It’s a memoir, and it marries the concepts of trying to understand what exists in our universe with finding meaning in your own life. She’s a wonderful writer, and it’s a beautiful book.”
About the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation
The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation identifies the nation’s most promising innovators in science and technology, and empowers them to pursue solutions to our toughest challenges. Launched in 1963, the Hertz Fellowship is the most exclusive fellowship program in the United States, fueling more than 1,200 leaders, disruptors, and creators who apply their remarkable talents where they’re needed most—from the future of healthcare to the future health of our environment. Hertz Fellows hold 3,000+ patents, have founded 200+ companies, and have received 200+ major national and international awards, including two Nobel Prizes, eight Breakthrough Prizes, the National Medal of Technology, the Fields Medal, and the Turing Award. Learn more at HertzFoundation.org.