Sandy Edwards returns to UA to join advancement team

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,647 views 

Sandy Edwards (Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside).

Sandy Edwards, an accomplished fundraiser at the University of Arkansas for several years and, more recently, a longtime Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art executive team member, has returned to the UA as part of Scott Varady’s advancement team.

Varady told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal that Edwards started July 1 as a senior advisor for university advancement. Varady, a UA alum and longtime senior administrator, succeeded Mark Power as vice chancellor for university advancement earlier this year.

In an email, Varady outlined Edwards’ work focusing on several initiatives, including:

  • Advisor and thought partner in the development of an organizational framework, code of ethical standards and accountability, goal setting, strategic planning, budget and goalsetting timelines and responsibilities, and guiding principles.
  • Co-managing development officers within the advancement division and its strategic fundraising initiatives.
  • Serving as a member of the advancement division leadership team.
  • Assisting the advancement division in fulfilling the Chancellor’s strategic plan known as “150 Forward” for student success, research excellence, and employer of choice.

“We will take full advantage of Sandy’s deep knowledge and talents to help generate private gift support to advance the land-grant mission of the University of Arkansas for the benefit of our students and our state,” Varady wrote in an email.

Edwards was Crystal Bridges’ deputy director from 2007 — four years before the museum opened in November 2011 — until 2020. She held the title of senior director until her departure this past January.

“Fifteen years ago, when I joined the newly founded organization that would become Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, I was drawn to its mission and the impact it could have on our community,” Edwards said in a museum blog post earlier this year. “From being part of an evolving and growing organization focused on building facilities, a collection, and a team to becoming a dynamic, established, and well-respected force within the museum field and art world, it has proven to be a remarkable and richly rewarding experience.

“As we complete our 11th anniversary celebration, it’s an ideal time for me to pass the torch. I’ve had the pleasure of watching my colleagues develop into dedicated leaders who are inspired by the museum’s mission, committed to the communities we serve, and well-prepared to successfully advance the next chapter.”

Before Alice Walton recruited her to help plan, build and open Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Edwards and her late husband, Clay, worked for nine years (1998-2007) as the management team for the UA’s development program directing the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century.

The fundraising campaign aimed to raise $500 million for scholarship and faculty endowments, capital improvements, program support and annual giving. The UA reached the goal, then increased it to $900 million. That goal was attained and raised to $1 billion, placing the university among 24 other institutions in America actively engaged in such drives.

Edwards’ previous work also emphasized art and education. She was the director of development for outreach and cooperative extension at Penn State University from 1992 to 1998. As a concert promoter and performing artist, she was recognized nationally before becoming involved in university development.

Edwards will be inducted into the 7th annual class of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame on Aug. 24 at the Wally Allen Ballroom in the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock.

Describing Edwards’ first stint at the UA, the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame said: “Her strategic leadership and mentorship yielded a workforce of fundraisers, alumni relations professionals and communicators who would go on to serve and lead not only at the university but other organizations throughout the state and nation impacting their philanthropic initiatives.”