Returning Favor Led Trujillo Back to Tech
Imagine Al Trujillo’s surprise when, as a Georgia Tech student, he received a congratulatory letter (and a hefty check) stating he’d been awarded a scholarship — that he didn’t apply for.
“Dr. Ducoffe was head of Aerospace Engineering when I was an undergrad in the late 70s and early 80s,” said Trujillo, who is now president and chief operating officer of The Georgia Tech Foundation. “He was always pushing me to do more, to the point that I wondered if he really liked me.”
But Trujillo was wrong. Ducoffe was the one who had nominated him for the scholarship.
“I remember telling him how surprised and honored I was that he’d done this,” Trujillo said. “He looked at me and said, ‘I surprised you … maybe you’ll surprise me someday.’”
Years later, Trujillo was sitting in his office overlooking Sydney Harbor in Australia when he received another letter from Tech — this time asking for help in establishing an endowed chair position in Ducoffe’s name.
“I hadn’t been a regularly involved alumnus, but this was a turning point,” Trujillo said. “I reconnected with the Institute as a volunteer with the Alumni Association, a path that led to where I am now.”
Practical Guy vs. Adventurer
Trujillo assumed his role at The Foundation in July 2013 after a colorful career leading companies that handled everything from waste to documents.
“When it comes to making career decisions, I’ve always had a practical guy sitting on one shoulder telling me to analyze my choices carefully — and another guy on the other shoulder telling me to lighten up and be adventurous,” he said.
As a teenager, Trujillo learned how to fly airplanes, which resulted in him graduating from Tech with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Aerospace Engineering.
After college, Trujillo dabbled in designing rocket motors for Lockheed and realized how much he enjoyed managing others. He headed to Stanford University, where Trujillo earned an MBA.
Since then, he has lead companies from the United States to Australia, eventually ending up in Norcross.
“Although it was the letter I received in Australia that prompted my re-involvement with Tech, moving to Norcross enabled me to be a more active participant, first through the Alumni Association as a trustee and then chairman, and later as a trustee to The Foundation,” he added.
Spreading the Word
“So what does The Foundation do?” This is the No. 1 question that Trujillo has heard since stepping into his new role.
The Foundation has three main duties:
- Receive and manage funds. The Foundation has approximately $1.7 billion in assets, with $1.4 billion of it in investments. (The unit has its own in-house investment team to assist in the decision-making process.) “It’s income from this $1.4 billion that helps pay for scholarships, faculty chairs, and institute infrastructure,” Trujillo added.
- Follow donors’ wishes. “It’s our job to ensure that money is distributed in a way that is consistent with our donors’ wishes,” he said. “Sometimes their directions aren’t the most convenient, but we need to follow them.”
- Manage the giving database. The Foundation oversees the major database that everyone on campus — from the Office of Development to Athletics — uses to identify and work with donors.
A Day on the Job
One of the most satisfying parts of Trujillo’s job is being around students — something that wasn’t a fact of life in other leadership positions he’s served in.
“Working in a higher education environment was one of the things that appealed most to me about this role,” Trujillo said. “Whether it’s getting to guest lecture for a class or meeting with a student I’ve mentored to help him mull over job options, I love these opportunities.”
In addition to meeting with students, Trujillo spends his days reviewing the investment results for The Foundation and serving on a number of Institute committees, such as those for the Alumni Association, Athletics, Arts Council, and Facilities.
“I joined a well-run organization, but there are always opportunities for improvement, and I will be looking for ways to run The Foundation even more efficiently,” he said. “I also look forward to finding new ways to leverage The Foundation’s resources in support of Georgia Tech and am always open to suggestions from the campus community. So, if you have feedback, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”