Eric Upton is learning the ropes as the faculty's new Director of Advancement and will be developing a strategic plan for meeting the faculty's fundraising goals.
Eric Upton likes to say he started his career by knocking people over. The former Edmonton Eskimos football player and five-time Grey Cup champion did plenty of that during a long and storied sporting career. That drive for success, in fact, is an art he’s perfected – in a much more finessed way - over a career that’s included a variety of organizations including the Oilers, Oil Kings, CBC and United Way.
In his new role as Director of Advancement for the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, since June of this year, Upton says one of his top priorities will be raising funds to support research. “There are some exciting, new areas of focus and we want to be as successful in these ground-breaking endeavours as we have been over the past decade in raising funds for a variety of other interests including facilities.”
Upton, who has spent the past three months talking to researchers about their needs, will focus on a few major areas including the renovation of laboratory space on the fourth floor of the East wing of the Van Vliet Centre, raising funds for graduate and undergraduate scholarships to support academic excellence and securing endowed support for faculty chairs and professors.
Another area that Upton will be working on in the near future is the legacy of the Junior Pan American Games that Edmonton will host in 2015. This showcase of the Americas’ top athletes under 20 years of age will see Foote Field used as a prime venue with the goal of replacing the track surface in time for the meet. “When we host international events like these, there’s the hope that this will result in a legacy structure. We are in early discussions of what that might be. We are looking at the possibility of developing an indoor sprint and throwing area as well as expanding some of the current facilities at Foote Field,” says Upton.
While Upton’s focus will be on major gifts (donations over $50,000) related to the advancement of the research agenda, he feels one of the most important aspects of his work is to coordinate fundraising efforts across the different areas of the faculty; to ensure good communication between these areas and to keep people informed as to what’s happening and the progress that’s being made.
“To accomplish this, I’ll be developing a strategic advancement plan based on the key fundraising priorities that I’ll be developing in collaboration with the Dean to help us achieve what we need as a faculty and to share that broadly with faculty members,” he says.
One of the major surprises for Upton, he says, is seeing the breadth of research within the faculty. “I have a degree in physical education and when I graduated the focus was on sport development. I’m amazed at the broad scope of excellent health-related research that the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation does in such areas as recreation and leisure, and the sociology and psychology of physical activity and sport. I see so many opportunities for engaging donors in supporting our work. It’s an exciting time.”