New KU Endowment president left west coast university that’s been criticized for anti-LGBTQ policies

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The next president of the University of Kansas Endowment left his last higher education position after the school’s board of trustees was unwilling to change anti-LGBTQ policies, according to the endowment.

Dan Martin will take on his new role as president of KU’s independent fundraising organization effective Aug. 15.

He served as president and CEO of Seattle Pacific University from 2012 until the end of March 2021, when he took a position at St. Luke’s Health Texas Division. The university has made headlines nationwide for lawsuits alleging anti-LGBTQ discrimination and its board of trustees’ refusal to change a policy stating that “employees are expected to refrain from sexual behavior that is inconsistent with the University’s understanding of Biblical standards, including cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity, and same-sex sexual activity.”

Michelle Tevis Strickland, a spokesperson for KU Endowment, said the organization was aware of the circumstances surrounding Martin’s departure from SPU, and it was a topic of discussion between him and the search committee.

“It’s clear Dan leads his work and personal life by putting people first, and he has been an inclusive leader,” Tevis Strickland said via email. “At Seattle Pacific, a portion of the Board of Trustees were unwilling to adopt a policy to be more inclusive. After repeated efforts to achieve change, Dan departed the university in 2021.”

Martin will succeed longtime Endowment president Dale Seuferling, who announced his retirement in January. Seuferling will stick around until Aug. 31 to assist in the transition, according to a Tuesday news release from KU Endowment.

“I’m honored and humbled to have been selected to lead KU Endowment into the future,” Martin said in the release. “I believe my time as a fundraiser in multiple organizations, including a health system, and serving as a university president provided me with the right skills and a fresh perspective on philanthropy.” 

A lawsuit filed in January 2021 lawsuit alleged that an adjunct faculty member in SPU’s nursing program would not be considered for a permanent faculty position “because he is gay.” That case settled out of court in May 2022, the student-run newspaper reported.

Then a class-action lawsuit filed March 29, 2021, accused SPU and 24 other faith-based universities of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students. The SPU alum plaintiff said in the lawsuit that “SPU’s grace had edges,” and that when he came out as transgender in 2019, he was not allowed to play a male role in a school play, and a professor refused to call him by his chosen name, among other issues. That case is ongoing.

Martin announced his resignation from SPU on March 30, 2021. He then joined St. Luke’s Health Texas Division as vice president of development for the organization’s philanthropic arm. According to SPU, its endowment tripled during Martin’s presidency.

José Flores, then-president of SPU’s student government body, reportedly told the Seattle Times that he thought Martin was a strong role model and leader, “I have nothing but positive things to say about Dr. Martin,” and “He is not the source of the problem.”

Martin, originally from Overland Park, holds three degrees from KU — a Master of Business Administration, Juris Doctor degree and a Doctorate in Education, higher education policy and leadership — and a second Doctorate in Education, higher education management, from the University of Pennsylvania.

A search committee selected Martin as the next KU Endowment leader after a nationwide search and “a months-long process that included candidates from across the higher education and fundraising landscapes,” according to the Endowment’s release.

“At the end of the day, we felt Dan was the right choice because he is equally at home in the leadership, administrative and fundraising aspects of a university,” KU Endowment Board of Trustees Chair Dave Dillon said in the release. “Having been a university president, he has first-hand knowledge of the importance of philanthropic support to a university’s overall mission and its ability to operate. We know he’ll work hard to make sure KU Endowment continues to partner with donors, staff and the university community to ensure KU remains a world-class university for years to come.”

As for SPU, student activists’ efforts continue. The board of trustees in May announced that it would not change its “lifestyle policy.” Two trustees resigned shortly thereafter. Many graduating SPU students made headlines and went viral last month when they handed the interim president Pride flags rather than shake his hand as they crossed the stage.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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