May 26, 2006
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Mark Wharton has been appointed executive director of the East Carolina University Educational Foundation (Pirate Club) according to an announcement from athletics director Terry Holland Friday.
His acceptance to direct and provide leadership to the ECU Athletics development and fund-raising organization will mark the 1993 graduate's return to the departmental staff after a four-year tenure as the Pirate Club's assistant director from 1996 to 2000.
Wharton will rejoin the Pirate family after most recently serving as associate director of athletics for development at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas for the past two years, where he headed all development and fundraising activities for the Rebels' intercollegiate athletics program. In addition to directing all annual giving, major gift and capital campaigns for the Rebel Athletic Fund (RAF), Wharton also provided oversight to UNLV's donor seat program for football and basketball campaigns while working as the liaison with ESPN Regional Marketing Group on all ticket and fulfillment for the athletics department in 2004.
His implementation of a new annual giving campaign in 2004, entitled the "The Representative Program", increased annual giving nearly 22 percent while Wharton's efforts also resulted in a 15 percent climb in RAF donors compared to previous levels prior to his arrival. In addition, he was responsible for the development of a strategic plan to build a 30,000-square foot, $16 million athletic academic building with private funds - a campaign which is expected to be completed this fall. Wharton was also responsible for spearheading the restructuring of UNLV's priority point system, ticket, trade and CARS programs.
"We are thrilled to welcome Mark back to the Pirate family," ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland said. "His experience, institutional knowledge and vision will serve our fund-raising efforts very well for years to come."
Prior to his stint at UNLV, Wharton spent eight of his 13 years in full-time development, ticketing or marketing roles in the state of North Carolina working in upper administration positions at two different institutions - University of North Carolina-Asheville (2003-204) and East Carolina - and as a front office member of the Kinston Indians Baseball Club from 1991 to 1994.
As UNC-Asheville's Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs, Wharton constructed an annual campaign from scratch and authored an organized marketing plan to target businesses in the western North Carolina area. In just one year with the Bulldog athletics department, he was responsible for a 30 percent increase in ticket revenue and a 22 percent hike in donations over the previous year. Wharton also handled the initiation, development and implementation of UNCA's new athletic marks and logos which resulted in a 120 percent increase in licensing revenue.
Prior to his move to Asheville, Wharton served as James Madison University's Director of Athletics Development (Duke Club) for three years beginning in May, 2000. While at JMU, he developed the department's athletic fund-raising arm from the ground up, hiring, educating and directing a staff of nine employees. He also implemented the representative system in 13 communities in four states, building a bigger base for annual giving and, in turn, a larger prospect base for future capital campaigns. In all, Wharton increased the donor base by more than 30 percent and increased overall giving to the Duke Club by 108 percent during his three years while also developing and implementing JMU's first capital campaign to raise $10 million for an athletics performance building.
During Wharton's first tenure at East Carolina, he was responsible for the development of 17 Pirate Club chapters in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. In addition to identifying and cultivating members for annual campaigns, he qualified individuals and businesses for ECU's "Kick-off To Victory" campaign to raise $10.5 million for the construction of the Pirates' new strength and conditioning building, later named the Murphy Center. Wharton also played an active role directing other activities such as the Young Graduate Campaign and Student Pirate Club while coordinating parking and seating assignments for football and basketball games.
"We are fortunate to have someone of Mark's capability who also brings a wealth of experience to this job," Pirate Club President John Hudson said. "He developed his foundation at ECU and will bring a passion back to the Pirate Club."
Wharton began his professional career while a student at ECU, earning an appointment as the Kinston Indians' Director of Regional Marketing in January of 1991. He marketed the Cleveland Indians' Class A organization to four different regions that bordered Lenior County with an emphasis on advertising and group sales while supervising the club's concessions, merchandising, game-day promotions and ticketing operations. During his last season in 1993, Wharton was directly responsible for an increase in group sales by over $50,000.
Search committee co-chairs Grant Jarman and Jerry Wilkens were equally impressed with Wharton's credentials and enthusiasm for enhancing East Carolina's fund-raising efforts, saying "that he exuded tremendous energy during the entire interview process that we feel will propel the Pirate Club well into the future."
He earned a bachelor's degree in leisure studies with a concentration in community and commercial recreation from ECU in 1993 before adding a master's in human ecology with an emphasis in sport management from the University of Tennessee in 1995.
While finishing up requirements for his master's degree, Wharton served as a development and marketing intern for the UT Women's Athletics Department where he designed all print advertisements and coordinated game-day activities for the Lady Vols' nationally-prominent basketball program while also assisting the department in major fund-raising projects.
Wharton is a member of the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD).
Wharton is married to the former Michelle Brunson and the couple has two children - son Thomas (4) and a daughter Allison (2).