Beverly O’Brien, the professional fundraiser who helped secure almost $80 million to build and endow The Cable Center in Denver, died on May 8 at her home in Columbia, Mo. She succumbed to cancer after a short illness and was 55 years old.
A former university development director, O’Brien was hired in 1997, when the Cable Center was just getting started, CEO Bob Russo recalled last week. He was part of a committee that helped select her for the job. Russo said she clearly had the expertise and had “a very outgoing personality — we thought that she would wear well with our donors.”
“Bev was passionate about her work,” Russo said. “She loved our donors, they loved her. She reminded me a lot of a Bill Daniels, whose work was their love. Bev fell in love with our industry.”
She had infectious enthusiasm and taught her colleagues much about fundraising, Russo said. “She had a great impact on all of us,” he said.
The center’s executive committee moved quickly to rename the major general endowment the Beverly O’Brien Endowment of the Third Millennium, which will grow to become a $40 million endowment “and really ensure the operation of the center in perpetuity,” Russo said.
O’Brien, whose Cable Center title was senior vice president of marketing and development, was remembered at the Cable Positive benefit dinner in New York City last Tuesday night with a moment of silence.
Funeral services were held last Friday (May 13) in Bryan, Texas.
A native of Dickinson, N.D., and graduate of the University of Utah, O’Brien worked as a staff member in development at the Minnesota State University at Moorhead, Minn., before joining the University of Missouri as director of development for the College of Arts and Science in 1988.
At the University of Missouri, she raised the endowment for the university’s first African-American Chair in Ethnic Studies and endowed the first chair in Korean Studies in Political Science.
Survivors include her husband, Michael J. O’Brien of Columbia, Mo.; two sons, Nathan Schmit and Aaron Makaruk, both of Denver; and a daughter, Kimberly Schmit of Salt Lake City.