MEMPHIS — Dr. John Smarrelli Jr., president of Christian Brothers University (CBU), will be honored as the “Outstanding Executive Leader” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Memphis Chapter) at its annual National Philanthropy Day Crystal Awards on November 13 at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is the professional association of individuals responsible for generating philanthropic support for a wide variety of nonprofit, charitable organizations. Founded in 1960, AFP advances philanthropy through its more than 30,000 members in 227 chapters throughout the world. The Memphis Chapter was founded in 1985 and currently represents over 150 members.
Dr. John Smarrelli Jr. has served as the 22nd president of CBU since 2009 and recently announced his plans to retire from the position in May 2019 at the end of the current academic year. During his tenure, he has overseen the institution of new degree programs in Nursing, Physician Assistant Studies, and Healthcare Management, as well as record enrollment in the traditional undergraduate program. Smarrelli has championed the first phase of CBU’s Faith in Progress Campaign, raising almost $50 million dollars. Beyond his role as president of CBU, Smarrelli works to improve the Memphis community by focusing on education, economic development and social services, including involvement with numerous Memphis schools, the Memphis Rotary Club, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, Memphis Talent Dividend, Teacher Effectiveness Initiative Advisory Board, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. He also serves as board chair of Crosstown High School, New Day Schools, and Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association.
“Dr. Smarrelli is an agent of change at CBU and in our city,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a letter of endorsement to the AFP. “He has secured millions of scholarship dollars for the purpose of making the university accessible to students in all circumstances, supporting DREAMers and creating opportunities for DACA students. He is a member of multiple economic development organizations and played a central role in launching the 800 Initiative to encourage and educate minority small business owners in our area. Dr. Smarrelli's support and experience have been invaluable to educational organizations, faith-based groups, and business associations throughout Memphis.”
Former County Mayor Mark Luttrell echoed Strickland in recommending Smarrelli for this distinction. “Dr. Smarrelli exhibits the highest caliber of what any university should want in the person leading their organization,” Luttrell said. “John tackles the job of fundraising head on and with great care. Because of his hard work and dedication, Dr. Smarrelli has been able to expand the campus and has led the way for thousands of students to pursue an affordable quality degree from Christian Brothers University.”
CBU alumnus and trustee emeritus Joe Birch, who will serve as master of ceremonies for the Crystal Awards, likewise praised Smarrelli’s efforts in making higher education opportunities available to students who might not otherwise be able to pursue a college degree. “CBU bends over backwards to enroll students who have a desire to learn but lack the resources to afford a college education,” Birch said. “Under Dr. Smarrelli's leadership, the University has been true to its longstanding call to serve learners on the margins. CBU has gone the extra mile to find grants, scholarships, and funding of every kind to help so many in our economically challenged community.”
The AFP’s annual Crystal Awards program recognizes outstanding achievement by individual, foundation, and corporate philanthropists, fundraising volunteers, and fundraising professionals. The program is held on or near National Philanthropy Day, which is a special day set aside to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy—and those people active in the philanthropic community—to the enrichment of our world. Tickets for the event may be purchased at this link.