Headshot of Abbi Haggerty speaking at Commencement

Abbi Haggerty, Faculty Commencement Speaker

May 10, 2023

SPCS Commencement

Abbi Haggerty, adjunct assistant professor of nonprofit management and Executive Director of Richmond Performing Arts Alliance, was nominated by students to receive the Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award at the School of Professional & Continuing Studies 2023 Commencement Exercises on May 6, 2023.

As award winner, Haggerty received the opportunity to address graduating students during the ceremony. In her speech, reproduced below, she encouraged graduating students to leave the ceremony as “philanthropists” — literally “lovers of humanity” — and to take into the communities they serve the various ways each has been transformed by their time at SPCS.

Video Address

Starts at Provost Legro’s introduction of Haggerty as speaker.

Commencement Address

Good morning! It is so good to be here with you all today during this time of celebration. Commencement is one of my favorite days of the year as it recognizes the collective achievement of the many hours, days, weeks, and years each of you (and your families and friends) has dedicated to furthering your academic studies, advancing your careers, and achieving personal fulfillment through your chosen programs.

In the more than five years that I have taught in the Nonprofit Studies program, I have been amazed at the student achievements that I have had the privilege to witness firsthand. And, it is such an honor to receive the Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Faculty Award, which is really a reflection of the wonderful students — all of you — who make it so rewarding to teach in SPCS. Thank you!

I see teaching as a way to give back to my profession and to pass down the knowledge that I have gained during my career to those who will lead us into the future. I know each of you graduating today will continue to make a positive impact on our community and apply what you have learned during your studies at the University of Richmond to make substantial contributions to your own professions.

In my profession, as someone who leads an arts organization, I see every day how the arts open us up to different ways of seeing the world around us. And, while those experiences are unique to each of us, they also unite us and create a shared language that allows us to connect with our communities. The liberal arts education you have received through SPCS leads to similar outcomes–it has encouraged you to see the world through different lenses and think critically about the role you play and the legacy you want to leave.

In the SPCS vision statement and values, you will find the word “transformation.” I hope that I have been able to play a small role in the transformation of the students I have taught in terms of the way that they approach learning and the application of their studies to their professional lives. I believe that we all continue to be transformed throughout our lives by the experiences we have, the people we come in contact with, the knowledge that we gain, and the ways in which we choose to spend our time.

Having spent most of my time working in, studying, and teaching about the nonprofit sector, I see both sides of transformation — how it occurs in our lives and how we can enact that change in others by the choices we make. In one of my courses, we discuss how the word “philanthropy” simply means “love of humanity.” So, I encourage us all to leave here today as philanthropists and take the ways you have been transformed by your time at SPCS into the communities that you will lead and serve and transform.

Congratulations to each of you for your well-deserved and significant achievements! Thank you.

I encourage us all to leave here today as philanthropists and take the ways you have been transformed by your time at SPCS into the communities that you will lead and serve and transform.
Abbi Haggerty
SPCS Commencement Speaker

Biographical Summary

Abbi Leinwand Haggerty, PhD, is the Executive Director of Richmond Performing Arts Alliance and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Nonprofit Studies program at the University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies. With 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, primarily in fundraising, she has also held positions at VMFA, Museum of Science & Industry (Tampa, FL), Brightpoint Community College, and the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence. 

For SPCS, Abbi has served on the Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee (Chair, 2021) and the Adjunct Performance Review Task Force. In the community, she serves as Immediate Past President of the Board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)-Central Virginia Chapter and as a member of the Emerging Leaders Committee for AFP Global.

Throughout her academic and professional career, Abbi has worked to advance nonprofit organizational culture and employee retention and has presented on the topic at numerous conferences including Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC), Nonprofit Talent & Culture Summit, and Virginia Fund Raising Institute, as well as led webinars with Korn Ferry.