Matt Kupec: My Favorite Michael Jordan Story
by Matt Kupec
April 26, 2020
ESPN’s “Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty, has captivated the sports world.
For me, anything covering Michael Jordan is special. MJ is widely regarded as one of the most influential sports personalities of all-time. His talents, grace, competitive fire, winning ways, determination, charisma and charm mesmerized many of us during his prolific career. “Last Dance” is taking the legend of Michael Jordan to even higher level!
As a former UNC QB and chief fundraiser at the school, Michael’s UNC roots make it obvious why I am such a Michael fan. I am sure the entire Tar Heel nation joins me in that admiration society.
In my twenty-years at UNC’s vice chancellor for advancement for some 21 years I had the chance to meet Michael on many occasions. I also had the great fortune to interact with his mom, Delores Jordan.
I do have a favorite Michael Jordan Story and it was a chance encounter.
It was an Easter Saturday. A good friend of mine, FedEx’s Fred Smith had asked me if I would provide a campus tour for the CEO of a large advertising firm and his daughter, a senior in high school who was trying to decide on whether to attend UNC.
We met for breakfast at the Siena Hotel, a five-year hotel/restaurant in Chapel Hill. While we were eating, Michael Jordan appeared in the restaurant and starting going through the buffet line.
Knowing Michael, I went up to him and asked if he could come over and say hello to the visitors. Michael was all in! Not only did he come over but he sat down and spent some 15-20 minutes where he was charming and recruiting hard for UNC. What was ironic is that the daughter had little clue as to the fame and status of Michael.
Turns out, her younger brother back home did!
He was a big UNC fan and knew everything about Michael Jordan. When father and daughter returned home, the girl told the brother that she met some former UNC basketball player. The son anxious to know which player, half-jokingly blasted out “was it Michael Jordan?” The girl replied, “yes, I think so!” And then the son let a scream of excitment!
How many of us would give most anything to have a fifteen minute one on one conversation with Michael Jordan?
As it turns out, the daughter chose to attend the University of Virginia!
The next time I saw Michael, I gave him a hard time for “not being able a close the deal and get the girl to attend UNC”. He flashed his charismatic Michael grin and we had a good laugh.
But that story shows that Michael Jordan really is a good guy. But, not even Michael can close every deal!
About the Author
Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed four major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, leading SIU’s recently extended campaign with an increased goal from $75 million to $200 million.
Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.
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Highly successful fundraising leader with nearly $5 billion raised
- Fundraising professional with 30+ years of significant higher education and healthcare development experience
- Significant track record of increasing philanthropic support
- Directed three major fundraising campaigns
- Nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership
About Matt Kupec
Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 35 years of significant development experience as the chief development officer at institutions in higher education and healthcare. Here is just a sampling of what has been accomplished under his leadership:
- Nearly $5 billion has been raised to support people, programs and facilities
- He has directed three successful major fundraising campaigns
- The Carolina First Campaign at UNC-Chapel Hill was the 5th most successful university campaign ever in US history.
- Development programs have been recognized as being among the finest in the country.
- Secured many seven and eight figure gifts, including four $50M+ gifts
Matt’s leadership style has been shaped by the many experiences in his lifelong journey as a professional fundraiser. His interactions with leaders in higher education, health care, business, government and the non-profit sector – and even his role as the quarterback of his college football team – have helped to inform his leadership style.
What drives Matt Kupec in his work is his belief that philanthropy does play an important role in providing critical resources to help an organization fulfill its objectives. Fundraising has an impact. Gifts that are secured can truly transform the lives of thousands of people. Matt sees this as a window of opportunity to really make a difference in the world we live. This mentality and vision shapes his overall passion and work ethic each and every day.
One of Matt’s favorite quotes about team playing within an organization is that “when you want to go fast, go alone. But when you want to go far, we must go together.” And you’ll see throughout his experiences, Matt Kupec has always been a champion that team building may be the most important part of developing a very successful fundraising program.
The really wonderful aspect of fundraising is that you learn lessons each and every day. Dealing with donors, volunteers, development staff, and senior management is a work in progress. It has to be cultivated, nurtured and cared for each and every day. How well you succeed in addressing all of these areas will be the answer to what “culture of philanthropy” you are able to establish within your organization. And the stronger that culture, the more successful your fundraising program will be.
The Early Years: Educational Experience
Matt Kupec has always been a leader throughout his life. Born and raised in Syosset, NY on Long Island, he enjoyed a prolific high school career as an outstanding student-athlete. A three sport star – football, basketball and baseball – Matt earned many honors and awards including prep All-American in football where he led his Syosset HS football squad to an undefeated season and #1 ranking as the top High School team in the entire New York state.
With many full scholarship offers to choose from following his successful football career, Matt Kupec chose to accept a full scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because of its high academic standing and strong football program.
At UNC, Matt was the starting quarterback for four years and led the Tar Heels to bowl games in three of the four seasons. He was named Most Valuable Player in the Liberty and Gator Bowls.
Matt set 19 season and career passing records while a UNC quarterback. In fact, two of those records – most consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass and most wins as a starting quarterback – remain standing nearly 40 years after his playing career. Matt earned a reputation for being a “winner” during his UNC career.
About this Site
$390 billion was given to charities in the United States in 2017! Yes, $390 billion! These dollars came from individuals, corporations and foundations to non-profit organizations. Fundraising continues to become more important for all charities throughout the land due to ever increasing pressures to increase revenue. On this site you will find articles, blogs, and informational videos that can help you in your journey to build a fundraising program that is providing you with the philanthropic resources needed to help your organization meet its ambitious goals.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”