University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Every gift is meaningful

Rusty and Katharin Brink
Arthur "Rusty" Brink, Jr. '66 and Katharin Brink, photograph by Susan Teare


Every gift is meaningful

"You know, I’m a lucky guy,” says Arthur “Rusty” Brink, Jr. ’66, as he looks back on his time at UVM and a 45-year career as a professional fundraiser. For him, he says, UVM was a life-changing experience—one that he credits others for making possible.

As a high school student in Lawrence, Mass., Brink knew he wanted to go to college, but there was one major obstacle: lack of funds. “It was really important for me to see if I could get a scholarship,” he recalls. Initially he had his sights set on Colby College in Maine, where the talented high school athlete hoped to be offered a football scholarship. That didn’t work out. But as it happened, he developed a good rapport with Colby’s football coach, Bob Clifford, on his visits to campus. And when Clifford decided to take the head coaching job at UVM, Brink got a letter from him offering a full scholarship. Brink accepted the offer and headed to Burlington, having never set foot on the UVM campus.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Rusty Brink is widely regarded as one of the finest football players ever at the University of Vermont. He was inducted into the UVM Athletic Hall of Fame in 1979. In his three varsity years at UVM, the Catamounts won 19 of 24 games, the most successful three-season stretch in the 73-year history of UVM football. Brink captained the team in 1965.

Brink’s career in fundraising also had its beginnings at UVM, and he credits a man named Walt Bruska, who came to UVM as director of development, for giving him his start. “Walt Bruska was my mentor for many, many years,” says Brink. “He recruited me to be alumni director and trained me as a fundraiser, and I spent the next 45 years in philanthropy.”

In succeeding years, Brink moved from alumni director to director of the annual fund, then director of development for the College of Medicine and Medical Center Hospital. His final move was into the vice president of public affairs and development job at Fletcher Allen Health Care. Brink’s wife, Katharin, worked as UVM’s director of admissions before taking a fundraising and public affairs position with Johnson State College. The couple left Vermont in 1998 when Brink was named executive director of the Presbyterian Hospital Foundation in Charlotte, N.C. In 2005 he became vice president and chief philanthropic officer for Martin Memorial Foundation in Stuart, Fla., the position from which he recently retired.

Brink says the UVM experience had a profound impact on his life both personally and professionally, and he and Katharin wanted to do something to express their gratitude. So they made a provision through their estate to endow a fund to support intercollegiate athletics and the Bailey-Howe Library. The gift, Brink says, is “a modest expression of our love and appreciation for the state of Vermont and the university, and for the wonderful people we worked with who had a significant impact on our lives.” Brink estimates the value of the gift in current dollars is over $50,000, based on a percentage of their estate.

“I believe that everybody can and should be philanthropic regardless of the size of their estate and that every gift is meaningful,” he says. “And while we can’t give as much as many people at UVM, I wanted to recognize the role that the university and the state of Vermont played in my life.”

The couple have six children (two of them also UVM alums) and 10 grandchildren, all of whom have deep connections to Vermont and to UVM.

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