Anybody who ever witnessed Dianne Day revving it up in a room full of people knew she loved her job. One minute she could be discussing some of Salk's latest scientific discoveries with one donor, then quickly switch gears with another to share details on the next tax seminar she was organizing.
To say she was good at her job is an understatement. After 33 years as the chief development officer at Salk, and millions raised through her efforts to show for it, it's safe to say she perfected the art of fundraising.
"Raising money for the Salk Institute was never just a job for her, it was a passion," said Jim Handelman, executive director of the G. Harold & Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation.
After a long and fruitful career, Dianne retired from Salk on July 1 to pursue her other two passions, golf and traveling. However, the impact of her leadership and the legacy she leaves behind at Salk is remembered most by her closest colleagues and friends.
"The most important thing I learned from Dianne is that when you truly love what you do and believe in your mission, success will follow," says director of Foundation Relations Lisa Marvin, who worked with Dianne for 11 years.
Dianne started her career at Salk in 1974 as an assistant in the development office, but it wasn't long before others at the Institute recognized her talent.
"Within a few months it became evident that Dianne was a lot smarter than her boss," says former Salk Executive Vice President Delbert Glanz, who worked closely with Dianne for three decades. "We let him go and she took over as chief development officer. The rest is history."
Dianne's knack for building relationships between foundation managers, donors and scientists was most evident in the success of the Salk's annual Tax Seminar on Private Foundations. The three-day meeting gathers managers, directors and trustees of private foundations from all over the country to update them with current tax regulations. Presentations by Salk scientists are also folded into the schedule.
Over the next 33 years, the seminar developed into more than just a well-respected informational briefing. It also became a family reunion of sorts. Eventually, many of these relationships stretched over several decades and often turn into genuine friendships. "It was always like a visit from a friend when Dianne came into town," Handelman says. Tom Brorby, a trustee on the Board of the Clayton Research Foundation, agreed: "Next to the legendary Fred de Hoffmann, Dianne Day is the best fundraiser I've ever seen. Her annual Tax Seminar on Private Foundations has been one of Salk's biggest sources of private gifts thanks to her efforts and unique skills."
Looking back at it, the last 33 years wasn't necessarily all about the work she enjoyed so much, Dianne says. "The people are really the best part. People who support the Institute are very special and forward thinking and the scientists who work at the Salk are simply brilliant," she says. "They are all dedicated to bettering the future of humankind." During her career, Dianne worked under seven Salk presidents and prevailed through numerous organizational changes. Her strong staying power, which is virtually unheard of for a development officer, is credited for maintaining relationship continuity between Salk and its donors.
"She is one of the unsung heroes we depend on and who is crucial for our scientific success," says Inder Verma, a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics.
Brorby took it a step further, saying: "C. W. Wellen, the president of the Clayton Research Foundation, which has spent $36 million on research over the years, has been heard to say on several occasions: 'To me, Dianne IS the Institute.' And that says it all."