A month before graduating from Southwestern in 1999, Chris LeBrun was approached by Sharon Leach, then the university’s vice president for advancement. She asked the graduating B.S. in broadcasting student what he planned on doing. When LeBrun told her he was having no luck finding a job, Leach suggested he apply for a one-year paid internship with Philanthropic Services for Institutions, the fundraising department of the North American Division of SDA.
“I’ll never forget what she said,” he recounts today. “She told me, ‘If you don’t like it, you can walk away after a year. But if you like it, you have your foot in the door.’
“ That was almost 20 years ago and LeBrun has been doing fundraising ever since. His career in philanthropy has literally taken him around the world. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and helped them accomplish some amazing projects,” he says.
For the majority of LeBrun’s career he raised funds for Adventist education at both the academy and college level, including serving as director of development for Andrews University. For the past six years he’s been working for Adventist ministries, including ADRA International and Hope Channel.
Today he’s the director of fundraising at Hope Channel and manages all aspects of fundraising in the United States for the official television network of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Chris is married to Suzy (Wagner) LeBrun, who graduated from Southwestern in 1996 with a degree in biology. They have two boys: Chris II, who is 15, and Nate, who is 13. It was during that first year of the PSI internship that Suzy and Chris reconnected and started dating. Today, Chris is grateful to Sharon Leach not only for his career but for the internship that led him to his future wife.
While at Southwestern, LeBrun found plenty of opportunities to get involved on campus and develop as a leader. In addition to serving as SA president and in other student association offices, LeBrun worked as a student recruiter for Victor Brown, helping with campus tours and traveling to academies and events for recruiting.
“Those experiences truly helped me better develop my relationship building skills that I now use every day in fundraising,” he says. “The amazing thing is that my degree in broadcasting is helping me tremendously now that I am at Hope Channel.” LeBrun works closely with the production team for fundraising event weekends, and he’s helped produce several TV spots and video packages, including the new weekly show Transformed.
Looking back, LeBrun is grateful to faculty members Dr. Bob Mendenhall, Victor Brown, and Sharon and Benji Leach for their influence and support while he was a student. But he singles out Dr. Bill Kilgore as having the biggest impact on his life, especially when he went on mission trips with the former theology professor.
“The greatest thing about Southwestern for me is that family atmosphere that turned faculty and administration into friends, and those friendships continue today,” he says. “I love being part of the Southwestern family!”