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President's Insider Blog


October 2019


From capital projects that expand the scope and scale of Drake University to scholarship funds that support our amazing students, philanthropy provides the spark that empowers change. Powered by the commitment of our generous alumni and friends, Drake continues to meet mission promise to our students, their families, and the communities we serve.

Our annual Francis Marion Drake Society Dinner was held on Friday, October 11. This special night honors the loyal, generous donors who every year make it possible for Drake to dream bigger and achieve more. The theme of this year’s event was our inspiration statement: “Transforming Lives and Strengthening Communities.” Laura and I were so pleased that over 400 of you could join us on campus at the most recent tangible representation of our inspiration – The Gregory & Suzie Glazer Burt Boys & Girls Club.

The Burt Club provided the perfect space for an evening of inspiration and gratitude. The program included statements from our new Board of Trustees Chair Peggy Fisher, FA’70, and from individuals who are directly impacted by your support of Drake. This included Jodie Warth, the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Des Moines, Jennie Baranczyk, Drake women’s basketball coach, and Lauren Kennon, current senior and president of the Student Alumni Association. They all spoke about how your gifts are impacting their lives and work, and the welfare of our neighborhood and city. As I stated repeatedly throughout my own remarks, when people say “Yes!” to Drake we can accomplish truly amazing things.

It was a special night, and one I know I’ll remember for a long time. Photos of the evening are available here:

As you look through the photos from the Francis Marion Drake Society dinner you’ll notice one that features our very dapper looking mascot — Griff. Griff has become an integral part of campus life and was the focus of our first ever crowdfunding effort.

On September 17, 2019, we launched a thirty-day crowdfunding campaign in support of the Live Mascot Program. A generous $10,000 match offered by Doug, BN’75, and Peggy, BN’76, GR’96, Person drove the campaign. I am proud to report we surpassed our goal of $10,000 and ushered in a new way of giving to Drake University.

Screenshot of Live Mascot ScaleFunder Goal Completion

Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe have transformed how individuals can give to the causes they care about. Many higher education institutions have taken notice and launched platforms of their own where alumni, students, parents, and friends can directly give to specific projects in support of the university’s mission. With the launch of “Here’s to the One,” Drake’s own crowdfunding site, we are creating another way that our donors can interact with and support the University.

To see the site and the completed project, please visit There will be more information in the spring about the launch of our next crowdfunding project.

Our Live Mascot Program is a powerful example of how philanthropic support can take an idea from conception to action. We developed the Live Mascot Program after witnessing the incredible response to Porterhouse, the 2009 Beautiful Bulldog winner, who became a fixture at Drake events. Porterhouse’s affable demeanor helped him instill a strong sense of community among Bulldogs everywhere—and we began to see the value a live mascot could have for this University.

We unveiled our first official live mascot, Griff, four years ago. Since then, Griff has become “everybody’s bulldog,” serving as a welcoming and inclusive presence on the Drake campus. He is a powerful representative for Drake and provides a common touchpoint for all who interact with our University—whether he is meeting prospective students, winning over fans, greeting alumni during Relays, or working as a therapy dog around Greater Des Moines. I’ve had the pleasure of attending many events with Griff, and I am always impressed by the loving response he receives wherever he goes.

While having a live mascot on campus and in the community has demonstrable benefits to us locally, Griff is also raising awareness of Drake University across the country. His social media channels and frequent appearance in our marketing materials generate an ever-increasing amount of engagement with our University. The Live Mascot Program has become integral to the fabric of our institution, and we are always looking for opportunities to expand its reach.

With the help of individuals like you, we continue to transform lives and strengthen communities. Regardless of where you direct your support within Drake University, we strive to be responsible and conscientious stewards of the resources you entrust to us. I greatly appreciate your contributions to the vibrancy of this institution and your ongoing investment. Thank you for saying “yes” to Drake University.


Warm regards,

Marty Martin
President, Drake University

P.S. Please see below to learn more about the Live Mascot Program and Griff’s role on campus and in the community.

Live Mascot Program by the Numbers

Years active (officially): 4

Current Live Mascot title holder Griff was introduced in 2015.


Events attended per year: 150+

Whether a student celebration, alumni get-together, or athletic event, Griff is always ready and excited to support the Drake community. In fact he even has his own “Courtside Crew” with t-shirts! In addition to his scheduled appearances, Griff regularly makes the rounds on campus, giving students the surprise chance to snap a selfie or give some ear-scratches.



Prospective Students and Families met in a year: 1,700

Whether from his Cowles Hall campus bed every Friday morning, or in front of his own photo backdrop during the Bulldog Days of Summer admissions events, Griff tries to greet each and every prospective student (and mom, dad, grandparent, or sibling) that comes to visit campus. Griff serves as an ambassador for the entire Drake community and reflects the values and experience prospective students will find here on campus.



Community Volunteer Visits in a year: at least 25

Griff is a certified Animal Rescue League (ARL) Therapy Pet and takes that title very seriously. He visits community organizations throughout the metro area including the New Horizons Adult Day Center, Delaware Elementary special education classroom, the Boys & Girls Club, Orchard Place child mental health services, and others. At each location he embodies the Drake values of service and compassion as he laps up innumerable pats, scratches, and hugs.



Pounds of Pet Food donated through Griff Gives Back: Over 30,000

Each spring Griff uses his platform to help other pets in the Des Moines metro through Griff Gives Back. He asks his followers to send pet food to the Drake campus which is then donated to the Pet Project Midwest, an organization that helps keep pets with their families and out of shelters by providing emergency food, supplies, and assistance.


How big of a deal is Griff: Somewhere between enormous and astronomical

With 14,491 followers across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, Griff has a big reach. In his four years at Drake Griff has met astronaut Peggy Whitson, Olympians Georgann Moline and Ryan Crouser, Iowa Governors Robert Ray and Terry Branstad, journalist Lisa Ling, and actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.

He is currently attempting to meet every 2020 presidential candidate (and their dogs!) and has crossed nine off his list so far. Though he rubs elbows with stars and luminaries, Griff definitely knows how to stay humble and spread the word about Drake University.



Follow Griff on Instagram at: