When Chapman University’s former Executive Vice President, Chief Advancement Officer (EVP/CAO) left in September 2021, Matt Parlow had no idea he would soon be stepping into the position. At the time, he was happily serving as Chapman University’s Dean of Fowler School of Law.
“When President Struppa asked me to fill the EVP position, it came as a surprise, but he saw something in me, and after some wonderful conversations, I told him I was in,” says Parlow, who started as EVP/CAO on December 1, 2021. “It isn’t a traditional career path for a dean to transition to a position like this, but it has been an exciting and rewarding opportunity to be directly involved in Chapman’s bright future.”
Well-Suited for the Role
While Parlow may have been surprised to be asked to take over as EVP/CAO, his background, experience and track record squarely pointed to his ability to excel in the position.
“As Dean of the Law School, I was involved in fundraising and have raised funds in various settings for nonprofits, as well as a for-profit real estate investment company that I helped found,” says Parlow.
While dean of the law school, Parlow had three consecutive years of record graduate employment. His fundraising efforts also led to several new professorships, a scholarship fund and supported curriculum expansion.
“When the previous EVP left, many were expecting I’d do a national search, and I also thought I would do so—at first,” says Chapman University’s President Daniele Struppa. “But then I realized I had a gem in my own organization. Matt had been a great dean for the Fowler School of Law and very successful raising money. He understood well the university priorities, and I thought that while nontraditional, this was going to be a great choice. That has proven to be true way beyond my expectations. The 2022-2023 year is going to be the best ever in Chapman fundraising. He has also become a very valuable and trusted advisor.”
Zeinab Dabbah is a member of Chapman’s Board of Trustees and Chair of the Academic Committee and currently works at Cal Optima Health as the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. She agrees with Struppa’s assessment.
“For those looking in, Matt may not have been the obvious choice, but for those of us who know him and understand his passion for the university, he was the perfect choice,” says Dabbah, who was asked by Parlow to join the Fowler School of Law Board of Advisors when he was dean. “Matt has been instrumental in bringing new major gifts to the university.”
Chapman’s New Five-Year Strategic Plan
Recently at the annual State of the University Address, Struppa announced Chapman’s new five-year strategic plan, which includes a comprehensive campaign that is the largest in the university’s history. The new campaign has a goal of $500 million, and they have raised $315 million to date.
“As we work toward a new level of excellence at Chapman, I look forward to making an impact in this role and achieving the goals that the Board and President Struppa have set for us,” says Parlow.
The comprehensive campaign will provide financial support and resources in a wide variety of areas, including supporting student scholarships and ensuring academic excellence as the university’s national ranking continues to rise. Funding is also earmarked for tripling the size of the Hilbert Museum of California Art by 2024.
“The Hilbert is a treasured community asset,” says Parlow. “This is just one example of how the university is set to reach new heights.”
As the EVP/CAO, Parlow oversees a diverse team of more than 100 team members responsible for development, strategic marketing, communications, career services, and the Hilbert. He enjoys how his position calls for interfacing with a wide variety of groups associated with Chapman.
Interacting with the Chapman Family
“Advancement touches so many areas of the university—from the students, to faculty and leadership, to parents, alumni and the community,” says Parlow. “I am an extrovert, and I really enjoy interacting with the many different groups that make up the Chapman family. Just this morning I met with an alum for breakfast and had lunch with one of our generous supporters and trustees. Then this afternoon, a colleague and I worked on planning a special event for this spring where we’ll be bringing Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to campus.”
As Alexis Reekie, 2022-2023 President of the Student Government Association, sees it, Chapman University is very fortunate to have someone like Parlow invested in the wellbeing of the university and its students.
“Matt has been an integral part of the university’s planning and progress in advancement that directly supports the students at this institution,” she says. “The fundraising initiatives he has been directing I am sure will result in greatly advancing the university, academics and student experience. Matt works alongside every individual and always takes their concerns and questions into consideration. Even as a student leader, I have found that when I provide my insight, it is always received with an open mind and discussion, and that is greatly appreciated.”
Transformational Impacts of Education
For Parlow, it is the transformational aspects of education that most excite him about his involvement at Chapman. He is the son of second-generation immigrants. His grandparents immigrated to New York from Germany and Russia, and due to a lack of money, his mother was raised in a foster home and his father in an orphanage.
“Despite difficult beginnings, my parents both obtained educations and taught for the Los Angeles School District for 40 years,” he says. “They are a testament to the transformational impact an education can have on socioeconomic status. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had without my parents becoming educated. At Chapman, we have the ability to make an impact by attracting the best and brightest students and providing the economic assistance they need to become educated, so they can go out and experience their own bright futures. My role in that transformation is humbling and holds great meaning for me.”