Executive Vice President Dave Whaley ’76 has dedicated his 40-year NU career to enriching the university and the Norwich community. They have given him a very full life in return
BY ROBYN O. GREENE
NORWICH RECORD | Fall 2021
Over the course of his four-decade career at Norwich, Dave Whaley ’76 has worn many hats, from alumni director, director of planned giving, and senior vice president of Development and Alumni Relations to his current role as executive vice president and chief of staff to Pres. Mark Anarumo. Whaley’s unofficial titles arguably include university ambassador and chief storyteller. Outgoing and genial, Whaley is full of yarns. Long ones. Short ones. Funny ones.
Take his story about the heartbreak and disappointment he caused legendary Norwich hockey coach Bob Priestley during his freshman year on the Hill. Whaley was raised in northern Minnesota before moving to Quebec in elementary school. Aware that Whaley spent his middle and high school years in Canada, Coach Priestley thought, This guy must be a hockey player. One morning Priestley entered Whaley’s barracks in Ransom Hall to ask the startled 6-foot 2-inch rook why he hadn’t signed up for the hockey team. “Sorry coach,” Whaley croaked to a crestfallen Priestley. “I play basketball.”
Cue the Late Show guffaws.
In August, Whaley marked 40 years since he was first hired by Norwich.
Armed with a master’s degree in sports management from UMass, Amherst, Whaley was working as director of sales and marketing for the Colorado Rockies ice hockey franchise, when his alma mater came calling. Norwich invited him to apply for the job of alumni director. Initially, the 27-year-old viewed the position as a stepping-stone back to professional sports. But the interview opened Whaley’s eyes to a career in higher education. “It had never dawned on me that you could make a living working for Norwich,” he says. “I saw it as a career opportunity.”
Ron Lotz ’60, then a lieutenant colonel in the Army stationed in D.C., interviewed Whaley at the Pentagon. Lotz, who served as NU Alumni Association president at the time, remembers Whaley as “a young guy, full of energy,” but lacking leadership experience. Thankfully, Lotz also saw potential. “Having been a student there, Dave knew what Norwich stood for, and he was willing to learn,” Lotz recalls.
Hank Whaley ’74 points to a conversation with his young¬er brother not long after he’d started the job. “He told me, ‘I am dedicating myself to this place forever.’”
“I have given Norwich my full measure of what I could do, and in exchange, Norwich has given me a very, very good life.” —Dave Whaley ’76, Executive Vice President
In his 12 years as alumni director, Whaley was introduced to the Norwich family across generations. “He developed great friendships and built strong relationships while learning what inspires each person to give back to the university,” Diane Scolaro, associate vice president for Alumni & Family Engagement, says.
Later, during his six years as director of Planned Giving, Whaley had the opportunity to meet and develop friendships with Norwich’s greatest generation, the graduates from the ’40s and ’50s.
In 1998, he took over the reins of what was then called Institutional Advancement. Bringing those established relationships with him—and aided by the guidance and sup-port of trustees Pier Mapes ’59 and Mark Kisiel ’59—he undertook the task of reinventing fundraising at Norwich. Over time, Whaley built a diverse team able to tackle everything from prospect research to donor recognition—and anything in between.
Former vice-chair of the Board of Trustees Joe Milano ’66 remembers when the Development Office comprised one person and an administrative assistant. “For years we weren’t in the business of raising money,” Milano says. “Dave attended CASE conferences to keep pace with best practices in advancement. He learned, he brought it home, he built his team, and kept them on their toes.” Director of Advancement & Gift Services Anne Brown, who worked with Whaley for nearly 28 years, observed firsthand his eagerness to adapt to ever-changing trends in higher education. “As the times changed, Dave stood ready to engineer how Norwich would change right along with—or ahead of—the times,” Brown says.
His diligence and dedication paid off. With the keen focus and dogged persistence he is famous for, Whaley led the charge during four capital campaigns and, together with his team, exceeded the financial goals for each one. During that period, annual giving increased by more than $10M per year. Whaley is quick to note, however, that he would never have accomplished any of it without his hardworking staff—and an abundance of outside help. Throughout his tenure, he sought the advice of trusted elders. “It was the mentorship and friendship of people like George Garrison ’42, Tony Carbone ’58, Athletic Director Joe Sabol, Dave Crawford ’52, Pier Mapes ’59, Richard Starbuck ’68, Ron Lotz ’60, Bill McIntosh ’67, Gordon Sullivan ’59, Joe Milano ’66, and others,” Whaley says, “that enabled me to be successful as I took on greater responsibility and led bigger teams.”
A clean-shaven recruit, Whaley arrived at Norwich in the fall of 1972, two years behind his brother Hank. Even as a rook, the younger Whaley’s now-legendary ability to form and maintain friendships was on display. “Dave would be friends with anybody,” recalls his freshman roommate Joe Olney ’76. “He’d strike up a conversation with anybody, and those people always remembered him.” Notably, Whaley also remembered them. “He just knew everybody,” says Mark Lang ’78, who, as a fresh¬man, played rugby with Whaley. “And he knew everything about everybody—where they lived, what they were doing, and on and on and on.”
A four-year dean’s list student, Whaley left a lasting impression on his teachers. Professor Emeritus Gary Lord H’19, who taught thousands of students over the course of his career, vividly remembers Whaley as “a bright, earnest, enthusiastic, and affable student,” adding, “the same qualities that would be at the core of his subsequent professional success.”
But it wasn’t just academics that Whaley took seriously. He took full advantage of all things extracurricular, choosing life experience over holding rank in the Corps. He worked on the Guidon and War Whoop, joined the Outing Club, and participated in intramural sports all four years. His love of history, developed during annual family trips to historic Civil War battlefields during his youth, inspired him to participate in a reenactment of Arnold’s Expedition to Quebec in celebration of America’s 1976 Bicentennial, led by Outing Club adviser Prof. Steve Ingram, who also co-founded the rugby program at Norwich. “When the emphasis was on the ‘extra’ or the ‘non-academic,’ Dave was up for the challenge,” Ingram recalls.
Indeed, the Dog River Pitch is where Whaley would cement his love affair with Norwich for all time. As a first-year student, he tried out for soccer, but was third or fourth in the depth chart at goal. The following year, he decided to try something completely new, and it captured his heart. Coach Ingram remembers Whaley as, “an ideal second row forward, often buried in the scrum as just another body, but always there, always in support, and always ready to drive on when his team needed him.” A decent athlete, Whaley enjoyed the challenge of rugby. Yet it was the camaraderie he found among his teammates that was like nothing he had ever known. “That forging of a friendship—kinship, brotherhood, sisterhood—it’s real. It does exist, and it is powerful,” Whaley says.
Today, Whaley’s intense loyalty to the men’s and women’s rugby programs at Norwich continues unabated. “Dave was always there for Norwich rugby, taking a leadership role when there was a vacuum, in a supporting role otherwise,” Ingram says. “Most significantly, he has been always in support of Norwich students when they took the rugby pitch wearing the Norwich University colors.”
Whaley emphasizes that he is grateful for every facet of his Norwich experience. But it is the rugby thread in particular, he says, that will “tug at his soul,” when he looks back on his life. “When I think of Norwich, it will be those times on the pitch, down there, by the Dog River. Those rugby friend-ships—those memories—are what I will take with me the longest and furthest, here in the fourth quarter of my life.”
The full impact of his 40 years of dedicated service to Norwich may be hard to quantify. But lifelong friend, Norwich rugby teammate, and NU Athletic Hall-of-Famer Randy Gaetz ’75 sums up Whaley’s legacy this way: “Over the past 40 years, Dave has been a key piece of moving the school forward, ensuring it could provide a quality education to each incoming class. As a result, he has helped educate and mold close to 10,000 graduates in the time he has been there. In the sport of rugby, they say you want to leave your jersey in a better place when you’re done. Dave has been part of the team that has put the school in a better place.”
When asked what messages he wished to convey to those reading this article, Whaley offered three key points. First: “Without the support of my wife, Stacey, my son Billy ’17, and my daughter Sarah ’18, my career would not have been possible. Their sacrifice has given us a great life, an excellent educational foundation for my children, and lifelong friends, for which I will be forever thankful.” Second: “I have been fortunate to have watched Norwich evolve from a small, all-male, military school into a vibrant and diverse university. Going forward, my hope is that the Norwich community—the faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and friends—will support Mark [Anarumo] and Liz [Kennedy] the way they supported Rich Schneider and me. Not everyone is always going to agree with everything that Norwich does, or actions Norwich takes, or where Norwich goes; but overall, Norwich is worthy of your support and your investment.” And third: “Thank you for welcoming me into your homes and into your lives, to talk about Norwich. Thank you for allowing me to help you help Norwich, or find a way—a path—for you to be involved. Above all, thank you for making Norwich a very special place.”