Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version



Davis, S. (2013). Terry L. Fairfield: A portraiture of nonprofit leadership in educational fundraising. (unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn L. Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Stephanie R. Davis


The purpose of this qualitative study was to create a narrative of Terry L. Fairfield’s leadership legacy at the University of Nebraska Foundation. Using the educational research methodology of Portraiture, this biographical sketch analyzed personal and professional events in Fairfield’s life and chronicled notable achievements, as well as the strife involved in securing financial support for the University of Nebraska system through means of philanthropy and private gifts. Exploring these experiences share and extend knowledge on his personal and professional history. As the financial health of colleges and universities continue to dwindle, both leadership in fundraising and the reliance on revenue from private donors demonstrate the indispensable part development plays in sustaining and progressing the landscape of higher education. The documentation of Fairfield’s successes and challenges creates a necessary profile of impactful fundraising from a historical perspective.

The qualitative results generate a rich description that advances the field of educational fundraising and development for higher education, expands knowledge on executive level leadership for nonprofit organizations, deepens an understanding of the complex fundraising role in sustaining colleges and universities, and provides a first-hand look at Fairfield’s life from primary and secondary sources by highlighting key conversation pieces.

Fairfield’s efforts, while serving as president and chief executive officer (CEO) to the University of Nebraska Foundation, played a central role in advancing the University of Nebraska system into becoming a premiere institution. From the data collected, five emergent themes were found, which comprise the Fairfield Leadership Model. These included lead by example, passion, mentorship, vision, and modesty. Analysis of the results suggests two propositions. The first proposition insinuates that best practices in educational fundraising leadership are nonlinear and circular; the second suggests that fundraisers play a supplementary and necessary leadership role in institutional advancement in higher education.

Advisor: Marilyn L. Grady