Upcoming Guest Speakers
Philip Sohmen is the deputy chairman of YK Pao School in Shanghai, a pioneering not-for-profit school named after his grandfather Sir YK Pao, the renowned Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist. YK Pao School was one of the first schools to allow Chinese students and international students to study together side by side, offering a unique bilingual educational program pioneering an international approach to delivering the Chinese curriculum alongside a focus on whole person education and character development. The School serves over 1500 primary and secondary age students across three campuses.
Lorna Somers is recognised internationally as a teacher/facilitator in the field of Higher Education and Institutional Advancement speaking at educational and arts organisations throughout the world. As an accomplished practitioner, she is in her 33rd year at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. From the introduction of foundational programmes like Annual and Planned Giving, and the establishment of Major and Principal Giving as well as Recognition and Stewardship, Somers also leads strategic planning, case and vision development. Campaign Director for two university-wide comprehensive campaigns and a third now in the planning stages, she has also led targeted campaigns for the Museum of Art, Health Sciences, Endowment, Chairs and Scholarships and University Centre. Somers works closely with academic leadership and is leading McMaster's new Brighter World Research Initiative.
Somers is co-author of the definitive Canadian fundraising text, Planned Giving for Canadians and the recipient of numerous international awards for excellence in teaching and leadership. She is an Aquarius with 16 cats.
Dr. Vita Pickrum joined Delaware State University in 2008 and serves multiple roles including as the Vice President of the Division of Institutional Advancement, the President of the Delaware State University Foundation, and as of January 2020, Chair of the 12th President’s Transition Team. She is responsible for overseeing all private fundraising for the University, alumni relations, development, and donor relations. Under her leadership, both private fundraising and alumni participation have substantially increased.
Dr. Pickrum has established strategic public and private partnerships that have yielded significant financial support for the University. She serves on the President’s Administrative Council and is the staff lead for the Delaware State University Board of Trustees’ Innovation and Sustainability Committee. Also, Dr. Pickrum oversees the management of the University’s Endowment Investment Managers. Dr. Pickrum is the founder of the HBCU Philanthropy Symposium – currently celebrating its 10th year.
In 2017, the Delaware Alliance of Nonprofit Agencies (DANA) and the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF) elected Dr. Pickrum to each of their Board of Directors, and she recently was appointed for second terms on each organization’s Board.
In 2018, Dr. Pickrum received an appointment to the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Board of Trustees, after serving on the Commission for Philanthropy and the National Committee for Institutionally Related Foundations. Of particular note, Dr. Pickrum was recognized with the 2018 Professional of the Year Award from CASE District II, out of 700 professionals.
In 2020, Dr. Pickrum was appointed to the Association of Governing Boards Council of Foundation Leaders. In this same year, Dr. Pickrum was elected as the Vice-Chair of the newly established CASE Committee on College and University Foundations representing over 800 community colleges and Universities.
Her professional career includes working for a United States Senator, owning small businesses, working in Higher Education, and consulting to non-profit organizations.
Dr. Pickrum earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Delaware State University in May 2016 and has a Master of Science degree and a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University and numerous achievement certificates.
Kathleen M. Schmidlkofer
Kathy Schmidlkofer has been president and CEO of the University of Minnesota Foundation since March 2014. The Foundation is dedicated to raising and managing private gifts from individuals and organizations to build greatness at the University of Minnesota. Under Schmidlkofer’s leadership, the Foundation has achieved record levels of fundraising as part of Driven, the University’s $4 billion system-wide campaign. The Foundation also actively manages the $2.5 billion dollar philanthropic endowment as well as manages an extensive student housing and commercial property portfolio with master planning underway to develop a commercial and innovation district to serve the needs of the University.
Before joining the Foundation, Schmidlkofer was executive vice president and a founding leader of GREATER MSP, a public private partnership dedicated to growing the economy of the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. Prior to that, she held a variety of senior finance roles over a 25-year career at General Mills.
Schmidlkofer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later completed her Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Schmidlkofer serves on the board of the Saint Paul and Minneapolis Community Foundations, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, and is a member of the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable.
George P. Watt, Jr.
George Watt joined the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) as a senior fellow in July 2017, with a focus on AGB’s support of institutionally-related foundations. In this role, he assists and advises on programs and research supporting the work of public university foundation boards, including AGB’s annual Foundation Leadership Forum, which brings together hundreds of board members and CEOs from across the country for a three-day program focused on governance practice, endowment management, and fundraising leadership. Prior to joining AGB, Mr. Watt served as executive vice president of institutional advancement at the College of Charleston (SC) and executive director of the College of Charleston Foundation. Mr. Watt came to the College of Charleston from the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association and the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, where he served for nearly nine years as the joint president and chief executive officer. Mr. Watt previously held executive positions with First Union Corporation’s Enterprise Solutions Group, as well as IBM Consulting Group’s North American Financial Services practice. He is a 1973 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and holds the retired rank of Captain, U.S. Navy.