Singing Her Praises
Celebrating the Hard Work and Generosity of an Employee Who Helps Grant Opportunities for Students at USD
Debbie Honeycutt is the secret force behind many of the grants the University of San Diego has been awarded since 2013, when she became an assistant director in USD's Office of Foundation Relations.
Debbie spent much of her earlier career working in service, sales and marketing administration and management for IBM before dedicating her life to raising money for admirable organizations—first for St. Madeleine Sophie's Center and then for The Neurosciences Institute, before joining the team at USD where she's helped bring in thousands of dollars from private foundations to support USD's Torero Renaissance Scholars, its Veterans Center, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, and the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.
"The grant for the School of Nursing was used to purchase six 'smart' gurneys in the School of Nursing's simulation lab and is a great example of how philanthropy can involve the community," Debbie explains. "The work our School of Nursing does fills a huge void in nursing education because it supplies the nursing educators and the advanced practice nurses who teach and train frontline nurses."
Many of the proposals for funding that Debbie submits require extensive research and intricate statistics that can take months to produce and calculate. She is the university's main researcher. She also manages and tracks—much like a traffic controller—the status of each request the university has pending with some of the region's largest foundations. At any given time she may be shepherding between 10 and 12 proposals through various phases of the process. In a typical year she may submit close to 100 proposals on behalf of the university and it's not uncommon to dedicate nearly a year to proposing, researching, submitting and gaining funding for a grant.
"I provide a lot of depth in my research and it can be a long process," Debbie says. "I've heard of funders' offices with stacks of proposals that are almost as high as their desks. They may pick up a proposal, see a misspelling and immediately reject it so we have to be very careful, diligent and precise."
One of the most rewarding grants she helped bring to USD was an ongoing grant from the In-N-Out Burger Foundation, which supports summer internships for USD's Torero Renaissance Scholars—students who were formerly in the foster care system.
"I'm so impressed with these students," says Debbie, whose efforts recently made it possible to renew the grant for a third year. "They aren't just breaking a cycle, they're experiencing true joy and making the most of every opportunity USD has been able to offer."
Not only does Debbie help raise money for the university professionally, she also contributes personally. Like many employees—in fact, this year's figures are up to 78 percent of employees—she gives back to USD. Recently, however, she took it a step further and opted to include the University of San Diego in her trust. Her planned gift will create a scholarship that will support students studying English or humanities for generations to come.
"My parents were so supportive of me when I was in college," she says, "and when you've been given something, you want to pass it on."
She appreciates USD's approach to education—a holistic approach that enriches many areas of a person's life. Her passion for supporting students, however, extends even beyond her work at USD. An avid singer, Debbie has been a longtime member of a local singing group, RB Chorale, which over the years has awarded more than $350,000 in scholarships to talented graduating seniors from high schools throughout San Diego County.
"I see the need," Debbie says. "I was the first in my family to go to college. I came from a very small town and college opened my eyes to the world. I think of college as more than an education, it's an experience and it's an experience that every student deserves to have."
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