COD Foundation director announces retirement
A member of College of DuPage's senior management team who serves as executive director of the school's foundation is stepping down later this year to take a position in the hospice industry.
However, Catherine Brod said her planned retirement in October from COD has nothing to do with recent controversies involving the Glen Ellyn-based community college and the COD Foundation, which raises money to increase educational and cultural opportunities for the school.
Brod acknowledged Thursday during an interview with the Daily Herald that she can "see why there's interest" in her departure.
COD President Robert Breuder recruited Brod in 2012 to become the school's vice president for development and foundation executive director. They previously worked together at Harper College in Palatine.
Brod's retirement announcement comes on the heels of three reform candidates winning election to the board that oversees the college. The "Clean Slate" members -- Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein -- said they plan to help sitting COD Trustee Kathy Hamilton undo a controversial $762,868 buyout package for Breuder, who is scheduled to step down next March.
"I can sincerely say that's not the primary reason why I'm leaving," said Brod, adding that she notified Breuder of her retirement on March 12.
Brod, who spent 15 years at Harper before joining COD in March 2012, said it was always her intention to retire after completing 30 years in higher education.
The Elk Grove Village resident will reach that milestone at the end of September; she's set her retirement date at Oct. 30.
In November, Brod will start a new job as president of the foundation for JourneyCare, a hospice organization based in Barrington. She said she was offered the position in early March.
"It's just a fantastic opportunity for me," Brod said. "It's an organization that I have been volunteering with for the past four or five years.
"My father used hospice care when he passed away," she added. "So I have a really strong personal mission and association with it. On top of that, I get to work in the same communities that I have been working in for the last 20 years."
Brod served as vice president, chief advancement officer and executive director of the foundation at Harper from 1997 to 2012.
At COD, Brod said the Foundation's assets have grown from about $10 million to nearly $15 million. That has allowed the number of scholarships awarded annually by college to double in three years to nearly 900.
"We've increased the number of donors by over 600 percent in the time I've been here, too," Brod said.
On Thursday, Breuder issued a statement.
"Cathy Brod has strengthened the College of DuPage Foundation and its board, creating a legacy that will benefit our students and community for many years," Breuder said. "Under her guidance, the COD Foundation has brought our financial assets to an all-time high of approximately $15 million."
Brod attributed that success to professionalizing and creating more of a comprehensive fundraising program. The foundation has created concentrated programs for special events, direct mail, planned giving and major gift fundraising.
Brod credited the foundation board members for giving her "a wonderful opportunity."
"They really elevate the foundation and its mission and what it does," she said. "We've done some really great work together."
But during the election, Brod found herself defending several foundation members when a candidate claimed that vendors for COD benefited by having employees sit on the foundation board. She called the claim "unwarranted" and "untrue."
Brod said the foundation is separate and distinct from the COD board of trustees.
"The foundation does great work," she said. "I think people were getting confused about the work of the foundation and the work of the board of trustees. The foundation board does not determine contracts. They have no decision-making whatsoever related to college business."
The foundation was in the news again when it was revealed that the DuPage County state's attorney's office issued a grand jury subpoena for the foundation's financial records. However, that subpoena was withdrawn after authorities decided not to pursue criminal charges.
Brod said she is worried about what impact the negative publicity will have on the work that the foundation is doing.
"When an institution goes through the kind of turmoil that we've been going through, you're concerned about your constituency and their perceptions and how they will continue to support the organization."
In the meantime, she'll be leaving with "mixed feelings."
"You're always sad about leaving good people behind, particularly the staff and the board members and many of the colleagues I've worked with here," Brod said. "But the exciting thing is that I'll be continuing to work in the same community. So I, hopefully, won't be saying goodbye permanently."