Power Players: Preparing For The Up-Cycle
The times, they were a-changin’ when Tom Land-rum arrived at the Univer-sity of Georgia in 1968.
“The 1960s leading into the mid-1970s was an exciting, extraordinary time to be on a college campus,” he says. “I felt like a firsthand witness to history. Among other things, I tell people that one thing that was a hallmark of the change is that in 1968, as a freshman, I went to football games wearing a coat and a tie. In 1972, I went wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt.”
Landrum laughed when he was reminded that, as the current Senior Vice President of External Affairs at the university, he’s back to wearing coats and ties at football games.
Landrum’s career at the university, as a student and staff member, spans four decades. An Atlanta native, he graduated from Druid Hills High School, where he nurtured both a love of history and writing. Despite serving as editor of the high school newspaper, Landrum made the conscious decision that he would not serve on the university’s newspaper, The Red & Black, choosing instead to work at The Pandora, the university yearbook.
“I think at the time I might have been in a little bit of denial, thinking I just don’t want to be a career journalist,” he says. “It just goes to show that if there’s something in your wiring that is inherent to your personality, you’re not going to be able to deny it.” Com-munications was in Land-rum’s blood. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history, but earned his master’s in journalism.
His first job upon graduating was in the Informa-tion and Education unit of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “I used to tell people I was doing public relations for deer and fish,” jokes Landrum.
Happily reconciled to his communications career, Landrum joined the UGA staff in 1976 as an information specialist and special events officer in the public relations office. He served in several communications-related positions through the years.
In 1988, Landrum became executive assistant to the vice president for development and university relations, and in 1992, was picked to serve as assistant to then-President Charles Knapp. When President Michael Adams came on board in 1997, Landrum became his executive assistant and chief of staff, where he remained until 2007 when he became interim chief of external affairs. The position became permanent the following year.
As the head of external affairs, Landrum manages the university’s advancement program, encompassing everything from fund raising to alumni relations, stewardship to special events. “When I get up in the morning, I’m thinking about fund raising,” he says. “That is the critical role of this position.” Landrum gives kudos to the team of professionals he works with and offers a heartfelt tip of the cap to the volunteers at the Arch Foundation as well.
Fund raising during a major economic downturn is the definition of challenging. Part of Landrum’s strategy is preparing for the “up-cycle.”
“We’ve redoubled our efforts in stewardship and expressing appreciation to donors and supporters who stay with us through the years,” he says. Half of the university’s 260,000 living alumni received their degree in the past 20 years. Landrum and his staff are refining ways to retain contact with those potential donors, while keeping their affinity for the university relevant and strong.
“I think everyone knows there are better days on the horizon. We’re putting forth a lot of effort to position ourselves for those better days,” he says. “I may not be around to see the benefits of what we’re doing now, but someone in the future will realize those benefits.”
Colleagues joke that Landrum has been at UGA so long that he was pals with its founder, Abraham Baldwin. Not quite, but time has given him a broader perspective.
“It has been an advantage to have been an ob-server of the university for so long,” he says. “To have seen what transpired, what decisions were made at the administrative level, the attitude of our students, the directions they’ve taken over the years, has given me a perspective that I have tried to use in forging strategies for continuing this very good trajectory the university has taken in my time and project it to the future.”