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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Leah Heister '08

Deputy Director and Chief Advancement Officer, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

Majors in Political Science and International Business, Minor in French

Knox connections helped Leah land her first job, and led her to a career in strategic development with the Guggenheim Museum.

Leah Heister '08 is the deputy director and chief advancement officer for the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

After Knox, Leah first worked for ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and then for St. Mary's Healthcare System for Children. Prior to working for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, she was vice president at CCS Fundraising, an international fundraising consulting firm. Currently, Leah is also an adjunct faculty member for Columbia University's Masters in Nonprofit Management program.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in strategic development and fundraising?

My plan after graduation was to take a gap year and work before heading to law school. I took a role with ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in their New York City office and ultimately decided that a career in fundraising was what I desired. I ended up pursuing my master’s in nonprofit management instead at Columbia University. 

What is most rewarding about your work in this field?

The ability to affect and bring about transformational change in today’s world through philanthropy, to support deserving organizations addressing and providing services to fill a need otherwise unable to be realized, as well as to partner with individuals and companies who are focused on impact and bettering society. 

How did your Knox experience affect the course of your career? 

I received my first job due to connections I made at Knox—largely through my role in Tri Delta and relationship with Kim Schrader, long-time St. Jude advocate and friend in the athletic department. That was the catalyst for many of the opportunities that happened subsequently. Serving as an ambassador within the Advancement Office at Knox and raising funds through Tri Delta’s philanthropic partnerships also taught me to think, question, and communicate.

Describe a memorable Knox class or experience, and the impact it had on you. 

I have two. First, then-President Roger Taylor and wife Anne were the reason I ended up at Knox (unbeknownst to me at the time). Their good friends and fellow Knox classmates were mutual acquaintances of my parents. I had the great fortune to interact with the Taylors consistently throughout my time at Knox. They encouraged my growth and have remained dear friends.

Second, Introduction to Political Science fall term of my freshman year with Lane Sunderland. Professor Sunderland remained a huge mentor to me at Knox and I also met two of my closest Knox friends in this course. 

Photo above by David M. Heald.

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Printed on Sunday, July 14, 2024