Todd Gibbs, Executive Director for Alumni Relations, has been with Sacred Heart University for almost a decade.
Gibbs had a brief stint at SHU from 2008 to 2009 as the Executive Director of Development, working in University Advancement.
“I was here in 2008-09. At that moment in time, I felt like Sacred Heart was in the early stages of positive growth and I really felt a sense of connection to the kind of vision, values, and the mission of Sacred Heart. That everyone mattered,” said Gibbs.
In 2009, he departed SHU during a period of change when he was presented with an opportunity to lead a non-profit organization.
“I was presented an opportunity to follow a passion and to lead it,” said Gibbbs. I led an organization that had a direct benefit to loved ones, and helped redefine and reshape it.”
The organization, Pegasus Therapeutic Riding, works with children, veterans, and first responders. Their mission reads as follows, “We are here to enhance the lives of individuals who have disabilities and challenges through equine-assisted activities and education.” More information about the organization can be found at pegasustr.org
Although he wasn’t actively searching for the next step, Gibbs’ next opportunity came when he received a call from SHU to return in some capacity.
Gibbs returned to Sacred Heart in 2014.
“I kind of always felt like I had unfinished business here,” said Gibbs.
Although his title gives him a leadership role in the school’s alumni engagement channels, Gibbs is adaptable to the many roles in institutional advancement.
In his eight years since being back he has touched upon the many functions of an advancement office; annual funds, giving campaigns, scholarship funds, major gifts, stewardship, and data services.
“Under the leadership of our Senior Vice President Paul Sutera, who joined us about 18 months ago, he’s organized the office in a way that clearly delineates alumni engagement as its own pillar and so I lead that alumni engagement channel,” said Gibbs.
One of his pillars’ responsibilities is alumni relations, engagement, and involvement. A physical event that brings alumni back to SHU is homecoming. Over the years, this weekend has grown in popularity.
When interviewed in October 2022, for a Spectrum article titled ‘Welcome Back, Alumni!’ Gibbs said, “Eight years ago, we had 250 students attend homecoming, with less than five events. Last year, we welcomed back 1,300, and this year we hosted over 2,000 alumni over the course of the weekend.”
Sacred Heart has 53,000 living alumni residing in all 50 states and coming from a total of 64 countries. These alumni give back in many ways; presence, promoting SHU in their community, mentoring students, and job/internship opportunities.
One-third of these students have graduated under President John Petillo’s 12-year presidency at the university. At other higher education institutions, young alumni who have graduated within 10 years are called G.O.L.D.: “Graduates of the Last Decade.” At SHU, they are called Petillo’s Kids.
There are currently eight alumni chapters based on geographic location in the United States. By June 2024, Gibbs hopes to grow that number to 20. The activities and engagement of these chapters were severely impacted by COVID-19. Aside from alumni chapters there is also affinity groups and alumni societies.
Alumni Engagement alongside the Center for Career & Professional Development have established a new platform. “Pioneers Connect” which works like LinkedIn but accessible only to SHU students has had a successful launch. Within the first week of launching, the platform has over 500 users.
“Pioneers Connect” allows for interactions between alumni and students alike. Whether you are connecting with a current or former classmate, potential employer, or looking for a mentor this platform has you covered.
Gibbs stressed that work in University Advancement (UA) is only possible through collaboration and coordination. These include the pillars within the UA framework as well as campus and community partners.
This year they assisted SHU’s Student Government with their 11th annual Turkey Drive. Without the support from alumni and donors the goal would not have been met. Student Government Senator Bella Neves sits on the board of Community and Inclusion that was responsible for putting together the turkey drive.
“Mr. Gibbs played a significant role in making both our November and December Turkey Drives so successful. Any time we hit a bump in the road, he was always there to help,” said Neves. “As a student here at Sacred Heart, it is so great to see a staff member who is so willing and happy to help others!”
When asked about vision and the future Gibbs mentioned building class identity. “While we have not had a class identity, we want to start building that,” said Gibbs. “We will have a 25 and 50 at homecoming. Over time we will start to introduce other class reunions.”
Aside from class reunions, there are plans to unite SHU’s affinity groups. “What we will continue to do is build reunions driven by affinity. It can be orientation leaders, which we have done in the past, members of the band, and groups even within Spectrum,” said Gibbs.
Many of these ideas are born within different departments in the community and are brought to Alumni Engagement to facilitate them.
On June 10 the Alumni Association Board in collaboration with the university will be hosting the very first Distinguished Alumni Awards Program. “It’s truly a chance to recognize alumni for significant professional and community accomplishments and the work that they are doing in the different phases of their career trajectories,” said Gibbs.