Touch Points

Elizabeth King arrived on campus as WSU’s youngest vice president in 1991. This February, she’ll take her leave – as a SHOCKER FOREVER.

Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation and Alumni Engagement (WSUFAE), has heard Wichita State’s Alma Mater sung hundreds of times over the course of her more or less 12,045 days as a university administrator and leading fundraising professional. She has heard rousing renditions sung by at least one former WSU first lady and scores of students, donors, alumni and faculty as a capstone to various Shocker events. She has sung along with basketball fans in Koch Arena, even before its Roundhouse Renaissance. But no matter the singer, King says, no matter the place: “It gets me every time.”

1991’s administrative team, from right: Roger Lowe, Elizabeth King, President Warren Armstrong, Fred Sudermann ’58/60, James Rhatigan, Rex Cottle
1991’s administrative team, from right: Roger Lowe, Elizabeth King, President Warren Armstrong, Fred Sudermann ’58/60, James Rhatigan, Rex Cottle

She has worked with six WSU presidents – Warren Armstrong (1983-1993), Gene Hughes (1993-1998), Don Beggs (1999-2012), John Bardo (2012-2019), Jay Golden (2019-2020) and Rick Muma – plus one interim leader, Andy Tompkins. As different as their presidencies and personalities are when compared to one another, she notes that the most inspiring led Wichita State with two things in common: a clear, mindful focus on the university priorities of the time and an unshakeable belief in the power of higher education to change lives, and the world, for the better.

The same is said of her: “Regardless of who the president of the university is,” says Muma, who was named to WSU’s top position in May 2021, “Elizabeth understands the need to align fundraising efforts with their priorities — with university priorities. I think this is why she has set records in fundraising over the years. There’s always full alignment. That is a gift for presidents.”

Beggs agrees: “She has built resources to an unimagined level to support the university in every way. It was a privilege to know and work with her.” Shirley Beggs, who’s still noted for her singing of the Alma Mater, adds, “Working with Elizabeth was always a delight because of her caring nature. She has won the trust of those with whom she works to make the university better.”

Since King’s arrival on campus in 1991 as vice president for university advancement and executive director of what was then called the WSU Endowment Association, WSU’s foundation assets have grown from $54 million to some $400 million, with annual fundraising totals averaging $50 million for the past three years. King points to the efforts of her “extraordinary” staff and foundation board members through the years for those record-setting numbers. She also credits her husband Don with being her biggest supporter. “Don is the one on whom I most lean,” she says, adding: “And he, too, is an adopted Shocker.”

In March 2022, board members of Wichita State’s two main support organizations, the WSU Foundation and the WSU Alumni Association, voted to consolidate, becoming the WSU Foundation and Alumni Engagement (WSUFAE) with King serving as the newly united organization’s first president and CEO.

Lynn Nichols, WSUFAE board chair, comments, “Elizabeth is one of the most professional people I’ve met. She’s smart, thoughtful, a planner, executes well, delegates to a great team and delivers high marks. If you drive through Wichita State’s campus, you really might not know it, but a great number of students you see are there because of the foundation’s work with cultivating scholarships for deserving students. Continuing your drive, look at the new buildings, the renovations, art sculptures – in some measure, Elizabeth has been an integral part of bringing many of those things forward.”

Pamela Ammar ’80, Debbie Haynes ’76 and Sheryl Wohlford ’82 – representing WSU’s nearly 200,000-strong base of donors and alumni – all applaud her for her extraordinarily successful tenure at their alma mater. “Elizabeth embodies elegance, intelligence, integrity and grace,” Ammar says. Haynes adds, “Her efforts have helped build our university into the respected, growing, innovative campus you see today.” Wohlford says, “Elizabeth has always had a presence about her that captures a room. Her ability to listen – and hear – what donors and alumni say has endeared her to Shockers near and far. She genuinely cares about students, a real key to her success, and she also supports and mentors young professionals, especially women.” With a smile, she adds, “One would never know she’s not a WSU alum by degree. I dare say, she has the best yellow and black wardrobe in town!”

Jim Rhatigan, WSU senior vice president emeritus, has worked with King since her first days on campus. In fact, he was among those who interviewed her for the job. “Elizabeth,” he says, “has an ethic of caring that is foundational to who she is. She has that rare combination of personal warmth and confident leadership that moves organizations forward and, simultaneously, reaches out to include and uplift every person in that organization. The achievements Elizabeth has helped Wichita State attain, and they are many, are now part of our institutional history.”

Or, as King herself prefers to see them, touch points for the future.

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