Brunner, a CMU quarterback from 2004-2008 and a team captain in 2008, spent the last two years as the assistant athletic director for annual giving at South Dakota State University. Under his leadership, the Jackrabbit Club had a 77 percent increase in annual fundraising in two years.
“He’s a Chippewa,” Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said. “I’m not sure anybody can speak to student-athlete experience and the need for it as well as he can. He’s passionate. He had tremendous success in the annual fundraising role with us before, and now he returns with a solid background in development and major projects.”
Heeke said Brunner will be a key player as CMU Athletics embarks on significant fundraising efforts to enhance facilities.
Brunner, who earned a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from CMU in 2009 and a master’s in public administration in 2014, will start his new role with CMU Athletics on July 25.
At South Dakota State, Brunner played a large part in fundraising for the $65 million Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium and the new $30 million Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. The football stadium will be ready for the 2016 season, and private donations already have funded 42 percent of the cost.
"It's bittersweet leaving SDSU with all that we have going on. It'll be tough not seeing the football stadium officially open," Brunner said. "I was part of a great team here, and it is rewarding to have worked on some projects that will sustain the program over the next 50 years.”
Brunner said he was not looking to leave Brookings, South Dakota, and the university, but the more he looked into the development role at CMU, the more he realized he wanted to return to Mount Pleasant.
“There was such a positive vibe across this campus, particularly with CMU Athletics," Brunner said. "When we came back to visit, we sensed a lot of the same feelings. From what John Bonamego has done in the short time he's been leading the football program, to what Sue Guevera and Keno Davis have done with our basketball programs, to some other stalwarts like wrestling, softball and gymnastics. I'm also thrilled to support our student-athletes in the two new programs that have been added since we left.
“There is a sense of, ‘What can this university be and how high can we go?’ We’re on the precipice of that type of era again, and I’m eager to be part of it.”