USC names Tracey Vranich as interim senior vice president for university advancement while Albert Checcio, who led the university’s fundraising for 10 years, becomes an advisor to the president.
Vranich joined USC’s advancement department in January 2011 and was promoted to vice president for advancement services in January 2014.
USC hasn’t sent any campus-wide or community-wide email regarding this change of personnel. A university spokesperson told Annenberg Media that Vranich’s first day of her appointment was April 1 and that Checcio will be an advisor to President Carol Folt from April through the end of June. The university is planning to announce the transition after the end of June when Checcio is leaving the university, the spokesperson added.
“It has been the highlight of my 40 year career and a true honor to have served as the Senior Vice President for Advancement at USC the past 10 years. USC is one of the great research universities in America, and private philanthropy has helped the university’s assent,” Checcio said in a statement to Annenberg Media.
Vranich’s appointment as interim senior vice president for university advancement went through a normal process with approval from the USC Board of Trustees, and the university will start a candidate search process later this year, according to the spokesperson.
“I have known and worked with Tracey Vranich for over 20 years. Tracey brings a wealth of experience and practical knowledge to the position and played a major role in the success the program has achieved during the last 10 years. She is eminently qualified to lead the USC Advancement program,” Checcio said.
Checcio was appointed senior vice president for university advancement in 2010 by then-President C. L. Max Nikias, who brought him from Fordham University. Checcio reported directly to the president and works closely with the university trustees, provost and deans to build plans and infrastructure on the side of fundraising, according to the USC website.
Checcio spearheaded the Campaign for the University of Southern California, which raised $7.16 billion between 2011 and 2018. The campaign marked the second-largest fundraising effort in the history of U.S. higher education. Vranich was also a key figure of the leadership team that implemented this campaign, according to USC.
In March 2018, USC announced that Checcio would retire from his post at the end of June 2018. USC Board of Trustees announced in May 2018 that Nikias has agreed to resign as USC’s president amid sexual misconduct allegations against campus gynecologist George Tyndall revealed by the Los Angeles Times.
Checcio did not retire in that June. He later served under Interim President Wanda Austin for 11 months and under Folt for nine months. The university spokesperson told Annenberg Media that Checcio was asked to stay first by Austin and then by Folt.
“I delayed my retirement, which was due to personal and family commitments, to help USC through this transitional period and provide stability for the advancement program,” Checcio wrote in his statement to Annenberg Media. “I have great admiration and respect for Dr. Carol Folt and believe she is the perfect leader for USC. I have enjoyed working with her the past year.”
The university announced in Spring 2019 to close the Campaign for USC, which raised $7 billion in eight years. Between 2017 and 2019, USC was hit by a series of scandals, including a former medical school dean who used methamphetamine and other drugs with criminals, the Tyndall case that has led to 700 civil lawsuits and a $215-million federal class-action settlement and four former USC employees indicted in the nationwide college admissions scheme.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in November 2019, Checcio said he was not clear about the impact of these scandals on university fundraising. The university raised about $850 million annually in 2015 and 2016, which were the peak of the Campaign for USC. In the fiscal year of 2017, 2018 and 2019, USC respectively garnered about $766 million, $670 million and $670 million, according to Checcio.
“How much was natural? How much was scandal? I wish I could tell you,” he told the Los Angeles Times, but he acknowledged that several major donors were reluctant to give money until they saw the university would make changes and show its improvements.
Checcio’s own department was also not free of scandal. In October 2017, David Carrera, who was USC’s vice president of advancement and health sciences development, left his post amid sexual harassment allegations against him. A USC spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that Checcio, who was Carrera’s boss at the time, learned of complaints in March 2017. Checchio “rebuked” Carrera, but “at the time, he did not think it merited a referral to OED (Office of Equity and Diversity),” the spokesperson told the Times.
USC is suffering financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 3, Provot Charles Zukoski and Senior Vice President for Finance James Staten wrote in their email that the university was seeing slowdowns in philanthropy and donor receivables along with other financial struggles. The email also announced that the university would pause hiring and merit increase for faculty and staff positions while senior leadership officers would take compensation reductions.
USC is facing a $300-500 million operating shortfall through June 2021, associated with costs and lost revenues, grants, and gifts due to the pandemic, Folt said in her online State of the University address on April 29.
While USC has a $5.7 billion endowment, Folt said in her speech that the endowment comes from gifts from people with legal agreements that specify for particular purposes of using the money.
“It’s also a rainy day fund for those purposes. It helps you to keep things going. But our entire endowment doesn’t fund a single year of USC’s budget,” she said.
Folt added that the endowment is not designed to be used for a pandemic, so USC has to find its own ways to combat the financial difficulties that the university and its students are facing.