NEW ULM - "Development" is about developing relationships with people and enlisting their support, financial and otherwise, for an organization, says John Vetter, longtime director of development and until recently athletic director at New Ulm Area Catholic Schools (NUACS).
"Stewardship is believing [that] all that we have comes from God, and we are expected to return part of what God has given us, back to God," says Vetter.
Getting to know people with generous hearts is the best feature of his development job, Vetter says.
Staff photo by Kremena Spengler
John Vetter is retiring from New Ulm Area Catholic Schools this year after serving as athletic director and director of development.
"That has enriched my life," Vetter said. "Generous people understand that life is about giving, and that life is about service to others."
A development director needs the support of the bishop, pastors, board of education, administration, faculty/staff, alumni, parents and friends, to be successful, continued Vetter. "I was fortunate here, that all these different groups have been supportive and helpful."
After 26 years on the job, Vetter is "fully" retiring this year. (He phased himself into retirement by scaling down and retiring the athletic component of his position.)
Vetter leaves behind an impressive, satisfying record that will long impact the school system he served:
NUACS annually raise 10 to 15 percent of the school budget. From 1985 to present, the Fr. Berghold Society annual fund drive has generated just short of $2 million for the school system. The Snowfest Community Night has generated more than $1.25 million since 1983 (Vetter gives ample credit to development assistant Karen Domeier for her work on Snowfest). NUACS has successfully implemented a planned giving program through wills, annuities and life insurance; a Marathon for Non-Public Education, a magazine drive, raffles and golf events; and plans to implement a new event this summer, the Sunfest 5K run/walk on Saturday, July 20, the same weekend as Bavarian Blast.
Vetter was born and raised in New Ulm, graduating from Cathedral High School in 1966.
He received his bachelor of science degree at what was then called Mankato State University, with a major in English and a minor in physical education.
He was encouraged to major in English by his senior English teacher, Sister Maria, he remembers. "I am happy she took the time to encourage me," said Vetter.
In 1974 Vetter received his master's degree in English at MSU.
Vetter taught high school English at Windom Area High Schools in 1970-79; then took a position as advertising salesman/advertising sales manager at The Journal.
When the development/athletic director position opened up at his alma mater in 1987, Vetter was hired for that position.
The combination of teaching/business world experience appeared to be "of great help," noted Vetter.
It provided him with qualifications and background for the position as well as skills relevant to doing the job.
Referring to his time in advertising, Vetter noted that while "it was interesting to do something else," an educational setting is where he felt he really belonged.
"I've gone 26 years thinking, the two positions I have here, God made me to do this. I was meant to this, and God has given me the energy to do the things I've done."
As athletic director, he tried to consciously emulate his predecessor, Stan Wilfahrt, his former coach who held the position for 31 years.
"I tried to be myself, but I tried to be like him, also," said Vetter.
Asked about what he considers his accomplishments in development, Vetter listed: successfully enlisting the support of a "great many people in our programs and schools," implementing a planned giving program; and implementing an annual giving program (with events such as Snowfest).
In athletics, he listed hiring and retaining coaches who used sports as a vehicle to teach students lessons that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
He said it has been gratifying to send students to 40 state championships in 25 years.
His best memories?
One of the great joys in his development job is meeting the people that enriched his life - such as longtime school custodian Walter Sprenger, whose generous legacy impacted the lives of so many students, said Vetter.
In terms of athletics, it's been seeing the joy in the faces of players and coaches when they brought a success home. Almost by definition, an athletic director needs to be able to rejoice in the accomplishments of others, mused Vetter.
"I had dreams of working at college level that didn't happen. ... I wouldn't call it a regret; I believe I did what I was meant to do... Man makes plans, God laughs..."
Vetter's retirement plans include "seeing places I haven't seen and going back to some that I have," spending time with children and grandchildren, finding some ways to be of service to the school.
"There will be plenty of things to do, and relaxing is one of them," said Vetter.