National search finds alumna to lead Ball State University Foundation

Topics: Alumni, Administrative

September 12, 2012

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Cheri O'Neill

The Ball State University Foundation today announced it has hired a new president and chief executive officer. Cheri E. O'Neill, a 1989 Ball State graduate and 23-year higher education veteran, is executive director of the Alpha Chi Omega national women's fraternity, the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation and the Alpha Chi Omega National Housing Corporation. She will begin her work at the Ball State foundation Jan. 1, 2013.

"Cheri brings outstanding credentials and contagious enthusiasm to the presidency of the foundation, a position so ably held for more than 22 years by David Bahlmann," said foundation board Chairman Stefan S. Anderson. "The directors and staff welcome her and look forward to a continued bright future for the foundation and Ball State."

O'Neill said the Ball State foundation presidency brings her full circle and combines the philanthropy, development, alumni relations, board development and community relations experiences she's gained along the way.

"Ball State opened my eyes to the world," said O'Neill. "As an English major, I fully expected to earn my Ph.D., teach literature and write the great American novel. But an internship in Ball State's admissions office set me on a higher-education path that's helped me serve thousands of students, raise millions of dollars, engage countless alumni and literally travel the world as an ambassador for higher education."

After beginning her career as an admissions officer for St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, the Anderson, Ind., native served Indiana University for 17 years. After first working in admissions at IU, O'Neill was associate director of the undergraduate program, development director, alumni relations director and international recruiter for the IU Kelley School of Business. She also was major gifts director for IU's largest school, the College of Arts and Sciences.

Since 2007, O'Neill has led Alpha Chi Omega a 127-year-old Indianapolis-based national women's fraternity with more than 200,000 members, a $14 million foundation, more than 130 collegiate chapters, 200 alumnae chapters and 60 staff members. She's recently led Alpha Chi Omega's foundation through a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign, the largest in the organization's history. O'Neill first joined Alpha Chi Omega as a student at Ball State.

"In both of these jobs, I've been able to return to my roots, to give back and to make a difference to the organizations that made such a difference for me," said O'Neill. "I'm truly blessed, and I'm so looking forward to working with the foundation board and with President Gora to help realize their vision for an even stronger Ball State."

"We are delighted to welcome Cheri back to Ball State, this time as a seasoned professional with a deep passion for Ball State and our mission," said Ball State University President Jo Ann M. Gora, who also served on the search committee for the new foundation president.

"Her extensive experience working with boards, combined with her understanding of the importance of fundraising, will help make her outstanding in this critical role."

In her new role, O'Neill will lead an organization that was founded in 1951 and now has assets close to $200 million, a sizeable professional staff, and a governing board of 31 members with national and international representation.


The foundation's primary function is to provide maximum sustainable support for Ball State University. The foundation has become a vital financial partner for the university, providing more than $300 million in support for programs and buildings, which have added academic, cultural, entertainment and economic value to the university and community since the foundation was organized more than 60 years ago. Future gifts such as bequests, life insurance policies, property and life income plans have grown to more than$90 million.

O'Neill follows David W. Bahlmann, who was named executive director of the foundation in 1990 and who will retire as president and CEO in January. Before coming to the foundation, Bahlmann was a national agency executive and attorney with extensive experience in administrative fundraising. His understanding of strategic planning, the operation of capital fundraising, investments and the importance of the university and foundation partnership allowed the foundation to reach new heights during his 22-year tenure. Since 1990, foundation assets have grown from $28 million to almost $200 million, and the university has successfully completed or exceeded goals in three capital campaigns and a campaign to build the Ball State Alumni Center.

O'Neill is only the fourth CEO in the organization's 61-year history. A graduate of Leadership Bloomington, O'Neill serves on the boards of directors of the Central Indiana Land Trust, the Indiana Society of Association Executives and the Spirit & Place Festival.

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