Martin Shell, vice president for development at Stanford for the past 13 years, has been named to a new position as vice president and chief external relations officer for the university, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced today.

Martin Shell: Office of Development Staff portrait taken on October 3rd, 2011.

Martin Shell (Image credit: Dani Vernon)

Under a consolidated administrative structure, the offices of Public Affairs, University Communications, Special Events and Protocol, and Development will report to Shell, along with a new Office for Community Engagement. The vice presidents overseeing several of these offices will continue to serve as members of Tessier-Lavigne’s senior staff, and the other reports to the president will remain unchanged.

Shell will step out of his role overseeing the Office of Development to assume the new position effective June 25. B. Howard Pearson, senior philanthropic advisor and legal counsel to development, will serve as interim vice president for development while a national search is conducted for Shell’s successor.

Tessier-Lavigne said that the imperative for the new role emerged through the long-range planning process.

“Throughout the long-range planning process, within hundreds of the ideas submitted by our community, we heard a very clear call for broader and more purposeful engagement with our region, nation and world,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “We also are facing complex issues both locally and at the federal level that require our immediate, concerted attention.”

Shell will align the work of Stanford’s externally facing teams to implement the new university vision, which calls for the creation of new strategies for service and engagement regionally, nationally and globally, along with enhanced collaboration with local partners to address sustainability, affordability and other local challenges.

“Martin was a major participant in formulating this vision for our heightened community engagement,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “He brings deep expertise in community engagement across the full spectrum, including a prior background in communications, government and external relations, in addition to his more recent oversight of our successful fundraising campaigns. I’m thrilled he has agreed to develop this new role at Stanford and know we will benefit immensely from his strategic, collaborative leadership in aligning these critical functions.”

Jeff Raikes, chair of the Stanford Board of Trustees, said the new role and Shell’s appointment are welcomed by the board.

“This new role is crucially important as we see increasing need to heighten Stanford’s engagement with many communities,” Raikes said. “The board has great confidence in Martin as a leader of teams, and also as someone with a depth of understanding of the responsibility Stanford has to serve our broader region and world. He brings a blend of communications savvy and knowledge of the Stanford community to these pressing issues.”

Prior to his 30-year career in development, alumni relations and advancement, Shell served as press secretary to U.S. Rep. Ed Bethune of Arkansas and as a newspaper reporter at the Log Cabin Democrat, as well as an executive with the Conway Corporation, a public utility company. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College.

Shell joined Stanford in 1998 as senior associate dean for external relations and in 2000 was named chief operating officer at Stanford Law School. In 2003, he joined the Office of Development as associate vice president and was promoted to vice president for development by then President John Hennessy in 2005. Since 2016, he has also overseen Stanford’s Office of Special Events and Protocol (OSEP).

Shell has worked closely with the president, the university trustees, the provost and the school deans to set the development agenda, deploy resources, establish goals and oversee the fundraising operations across the university. From 2006 to 2011, Shell served as the executive vice chair and lead staff member to The Stanford Challenge, the university’s fundraising effort that secured $6.2 billion in gifts and pledges. In the 13 years since Shell became vice president, the development program has raised more than $12.5 billion in support of university priorities, including student financial aid, educational programs, faculty appointments, research and operations.

Shell said he looks forward to the new role that will allow him to transition from development to focus his attention more broadly on overall university outreach, engagement and advancement.

“I am honored and humbled to be taking on this new assignment at Stanford,” Shell said. “It comes at a time when Stanford is poised to take the next step in its evolution as a national and global leader in research and education. At this moment in history, it is also important for Stanford to be more closely engaged with its varied external constituencies at the local, regional, national and even global levels. This new role is designed help the university coordinate and amplify its outreach and engagement efforts.”

Shell will immediately launch two recruitments. He will oversee the national search for his successor in the Office of Development. And he will lead the national search for a new vice president for university communications to succeed Lisa Lapin, who is departing Stanford in July to assume a new role as vice president for communications at the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Other priorities include working with David Demarest, vice president for public affairs, in advocating for federal support for research, and in support of the university’s General Use Permit process, the roadmap for future university growth now before Santa Clara County. Shell will also work to establish the Office for Community Engagement. He will also work closely with Howard Wolf, vice president for alumni affairs and president of the Stanford Alumni Association, to help coordinate institutional outreach among a variety of constituencies, including Stanford alumni.

“I have had the privilege of leading an exceptional group of colleagues in Stanford’s Office of Development for the past 13 years and more recently the OSEP team,” Shell said. “I have also partnered closely over the years with University Communications and the Office of Public Affairs. The work these teams do on behalf of the university is remarkable and oftentimes unsung. It is exciting to consider the potential increased effectiveness and opportunities we might achieve on behalf of Stanford through a more coordinated and expanded external focus.”

Over the next year, Shell will be engaged in working with design committees to help implement key aspects of the university vision, including those focused on Stanford’s purposeful engagement with its local community, region, the United States and the world.

Shell currently serves as a trustee of Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and is past trustee of CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He also is a past trustee of Oakland-based Coaching Corps, and has served as a member and co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education. Shell is the author or co-author of several publications on institutional advancement and serves as a faculty member at the CASE Summer Institute held annually at Dartmouth College. He is the recipient of the CASE “Crystal Apple” in recognition of his excellence in teaching.