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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘Left her mark’: Elizabeth King to retire, reflects on time at WSU

Jennifer Anima
Elizabeth King, president/CEO of the WSU Foundation and Alumni Engagement, pretends to get ready to pie Mike Lamb, vice president of the WSU Foundation. King and Lamb worked at the Foundation for 28 years together.

Throughout Elizabeth King’s time at Wichita State, she’s seen seven different presidents. Now, 32 years after she came to the university, she’s decided to retire.

King currently serves as the president and CEO of the WSU Foundation and Alumni Engagement. The president said the alignment of university leaders, positive fiscal affairs, and personal factors make this the “perfect” time to retire. 

“You have all these good things going on,” King said. “It’s time for us to start moving into some big funding priorities to seek support from the community, our alumni, friends, corporate community, and that’s a campaign which is extensive time-wise. And I think it would be better if somebody else comes in and plans and develops that.”

King’s career at Wichita State nearly coincided with the start of her married life. 

“What caused me to come to Kansas is I had gone back to my 10-year college reunion in Chicago, and re-met the man that is now my husband,” King said.

The pair did long distance for a while before King decided to move to Wichita, where her husband had worked for a family construction business.

“I moved here on a Monday and married him on a Saturday,” King said.

King worked at Friends University for two years before coming to Wichita State in 1991, where she has been since. She started at WSU as vice president for university advancement.

“So pretty much most of my married life, I’ve also been married to Wichita State because this job is pretty all-consuming in every positive way,” she said.

King said over her 30-plus years, she’s seen a culture shift at the university.

“For my first 15 years, I was the only female vice president, and now we have a very diverse president’s executive team and dean’s (team),” King said. “Women have a greater voice. People of color have a greater voice.” 

King said this offers a voice to more people “because they see people who look more like them.”

When King started at WSU, she oversaw multiple other areas that reported to her, like Strategic Communications, the Ulrich Museum of Art, and more. 

“After about 15 years, the president (Donald Beggs) at that time, wanted to take the foundation completely separate to protect our donors, and also just to have a more independent functioning organization,” King said. 

Now, King oversees and manages the WSU Foundation and Alumni Association, the latter of which merged with the foundation about a year ago. She oversees about 55 employees and said that her day-to-day varies.

“About 25%-ish of my week will be involved working with donors and trying to match their passions with the priorities of the university to get them interested in supporting the university. The rest of this job involves management,” King said. “There’s no one day, it really does vary.”

Darin Kater, vice president of development for the WSU Foundation, has worked at the university under King’s leadership for 15 years. Kater said he and King first met while he was a student at Friends.

“She’s a strong coach,” Kater said. “She wants everyone … to excel, to do the best they can do.” 

Kater noted King’s leadership and work ethic, referencing a previous campaign the foundation had worked on from 2013-2020 called “Shock the World.”

“The Shock the World campaign was the first true comprehensive campaign the university has embarked on,” Kater said.

The campaign goal was to raise $250 million over the seven years – a goal King exceeded. 

“The consultants at the time were saying (we) could probably do half of that, and Elizabeth was like, ‘No, I think we can do more,” Kater said. “So she set that at $250 million, and we went to $308 million.”

Kater said having King in her role for over 30 years has been an accomplishment.

“She’s left her mark here, and with that, great expectations moving forward,” Kater said.

King said she plans to spend more time with her husband but hasn’t fleshed out her plans for after her retirement.

“The big thing for me was making the decision to retire, and then now, I need to figure out some of the rest of that,” she said.

While a firm retirement date hasn’t been set, WSU’s Board of Trustees will hire a search firm to find King’s replacement. According to King, the board is aiming to select an individual by November and have them officially start in January 2024.

Until then, King said there is plenty of work to be done. She talked about raising money for various capital projects, like the Wichita Biomedical Campus and Wilkins Stadium.

“Number one: we will always focus on need-based scholarships,” King said. “We only exist to support the university, so anything that helps support the university – that we can find ways to match donor interests to those priorities – we’ll continue to work on this.”

When asked what she’ll miss the most when she retires, King said “the people.”

“That’s what I’m going to miss – when you’re talking about memories – it’s just the people that I’ve worked with,” she said.

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About the Contributors
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Reporter
Mia Hennen is a reporter for The Sunflower. Most recently, Hennen served as editor-in-chief for the 2023-2024 year. A senior English major, Hennen will graduate in May 2025 and hopes to pursue a career in journalism.
Jennifer Anima
Jennifer Anima, Reporter
Jennifer Anima is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. Before joining staff, she served as editor-in-chief at the Butler Lantern, the student newspaper for Butler Community College. Anima uses she/her pronouns.

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