David Glen, a former development officer responsible for many transformative gifts to Stanford over his 35-year career, died Sept. 13 at his Mountain View home with his wife, two sons and dog at his side. He was 79.

David Glen, former associate vice president for development and director of principal gifts at Stanford, died at age 79 on Sept. 13, 2021. (Image credit: Courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival)

Generations of Stanford students, faculty and staff have benefited from Glen’s contributions – whether working in campus buildings which he helped to secure funding to build, seeing scholarship and fellowship recipients advance in their careers or in continuing to help develop and counsel those he mentored.

“This was a guy who had Cardinal running through his veins,” said Martin Shell, vice president and chief external relations officer. “While Dave was always working very hard to connect people to the mission of the institution, he was also reminding those of us in leadership positions where and how we could continue to advance the university. He saw the amazing promise and transformative nature of Stanford, and yet always was mindful of those places where we can and should continue to improve. This passion came from a deep and lifelong love and affection for the institution.”

Glen earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford in 1964, and he began working at Stanford in 1968. That year, Stanford raised $30 million. Glen retired as associate vice president for development and director of principal gifts in 2003 and continued to consult on development matters for the university until 2011. That year, the university raised $709 million.

“The growth of the program was remarkable during Dave’s tenure, and it’s continued to grow since Dave retired,” said John Ford, former vice president for development.

Connecting interests

Glen was a central player in several notable fundraising campaigns, including the first billion-dollar campaign in higher education, the Centennial Campaign from 1987 to 1992, which commemorated the founding of the university.

“Dave was an institution,” Shell said. “He had a depth of experience, knew the place exceptionally well and was an alum himself. He ‘got’ Stanford in a host of different ways. He was deeply connected to the institution’s mission and in turn, he connected people to that mission.”

The Centennial Campaign reached $1.27 billion but also faced significant unforeseen challenges, including the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which caused an estimated $160 million in damages to facilities such as Memorial Church, the Stanford Museum and what was then the main library. The board of trustees then shifted the fundraising goals to incorporate $40 million for earthquake-related construction and repair projects.

“That restoration effort was a pivot to help Stanford at the time,” said Jon Denney, vice president for development. “Dave and the Office of Development delivered on that with really important resources to help the university recover.”

The Centennial Campaign also provided funding for the initial phase of development of West campus for science, engineering and medicine facilities, and “Dave was instrumental in raising money for that purpose,” Ford said. That development continued for more than 20 years.

It was followed by the first-ever billion-dollar effort focused exclusively on undergraduate education, The Campaign for Undergraduate Education from 2000 to 2005.

Then the Stanford Challenge from 2006 to 2011 set the pace for 21st-century fundraising campaigns by raising $6.2 billion, far above its goal of $4.3 billion.

Although Glen had officially retired by this time, he continued to consult as a senior advisor to the Office of Medical Development and the Hoover Institution at Stanford until 2011.

“He cared deeply about Stanford and wanted nothing but for Stanford to be the best it could be,” Denney said. “And that didn’t end when he retired. He continued to stay in touch with Stanford, made sure he was available, knew what was happening and how he could be helpful.”

A terrific listener, he was highly skilled at connecting donors’ interests and philanthropic desires with the hopes and desires of the institution.

For years, Glen had a great working relationship with William “Bill” Hewlett, whose foundation ultimately gifted $400 million for the humanities and sciences and undergraduate education.

He also developed relationships with former classmates and trustees Brad Freeman and Ward Woods, who provided key gifts to create the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Woods Institute for the Environment.

Glen always focused on the purpose of the fundraising, which is ultimately to support the students and faculty, Ford said. He was also involved in facilitating gifts to programs such as the Terman Fellows, Stanford Graduate Fellowships and Bio-X.

“He knew so much about Stanford and all corners of it,” Ford said. “He could do athletics one day and turn around and work on humanities and sciences the next and then business the next day.”

An educator

Glen worked behind the scenes, rarely taking credit for his work but often mentoring others.

“He always had an open door, and lots of young people new to development could drop in, bring their questions, test their strategies with Dave,” Ford said. “He was the consummate teacher.”

Glen convened weekly strategy discussions for anyone in the development office who wanted to come, and those became “legendary” in helping others to see the university’s whole picture, Shell said.

During his time at Stanford, Glen also advised nonprofits on development matters. He served on the Foothill De Anza Community College Foundation Board and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Board of Directors in Ashland, Oregon, where he moved with his wife, Kathy Esslinger, also a Stanford alum, in 2003.

“Dave’s long and productive career working in development was at the core of who he was and how he saw himself. It was about collaborating with many different people – donors, trustees, colleagues, volunteers, faculty and students – to advance the institution’s educational goals,” Esslinger said. “It gave him purpose and meaning; a sense of giving back to the university that gave him so many opportunities and rewarding experiences.”

A lifelong golfer, he spent a lot of time on his favorite course at Stanford, and as an avid sports fan, he was often at games, Shell said.

Glen is survived by his wife; stepson Michael Esslinger; stepson Matt Esslinger and his wife Sara; grandchildren Luke, Ben and Sydney Esslinger; brother Robert Glen; sister-in-law Rhodean Glen; his niece, nephew and dog, Zeke.