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Blast from the Past

Liz Kaplan, Class 27

Her first job after college was with the St. Mary’s Food Bank helping them with their community development, public relations and fundraising. She told us that was a real education. After a couple of years, she was ready for a new challenge. In 1991 she got a job with the Phoenix Suns organization doing group sales and marketing for them. We had a laugh when she told us she did not know too much about the sports business before this job. But new surroundings and different challenges don’t bother her. In fact, as Liz’s resume and skill sets grew, she accepted another offer in the sales area, this time with a medical device company.


Eventually, that ingrained desire to serve her community kicked in again. In early 2001 she joined the American Red Cross to assist them in their fundraising and community development efforts. After the September 11th terrorist attacks happened, she actually went back to New York City and worked around ground zero helping to coordinate their relief efforts. The raw emotions she experienced during that time will be seared into her memory forever. 

In 2004 Liz joined the Make a Wish Foundation of Arizona doing community relations and fundraising. About this time, she was seriously thinking about doing independent consulting. She actually did try it for a while in 2007, but soon realized she was much happier working with a team of people and on a single mission. At about that same time, another sports-related position opened, this time with Arizona Coyotes Hockey team running their charitable foundation. She really enjoyed working with the Coyotes, as she had when she was working with the Suns. When the Coyotes changed ownership in 2017, they brought in their own people and that gave Liz a chance to explore other opportunities. 


Fortunately, a position opened up at another of our highly regarded local enterprises, the Translational Genomics Institute (TGEN). She accepted a position with them to help build their community development activities. She loves TGEN’s mission and probably would have stayed there but her exceptional abilities were getting noticed by all kinds of organizations. 


In 2019 an executive recruiter told her that the position of Senior Director of Development at the University of Arizona (U of A) Medical School Campus in Phoenix was available. After some soul-searching, she knew this job was a good fit for her, and she made the change. She is still there and enjoys the challenge of that position. 


Liz told us a funny story that her Mom, who still lives here in the valley, asked her how she could get in front of all these different types of groups to make presentations and be successful. She laughed and told her that it was no big deal, she does all the time. On a sad note, her father passed away a while back. She has been helping her Mom transition to an assisted living facility. 


That effort really paid off because her Mom is doing well. It was when she talked about her Sister, who lives in Denver, and her Sister’s children that her smile really sparkled. Being Aunt Liz is a really good gig, and one that she really enjoys. She told us she absolutely loved her time in Class 27. Liz even went on to serve on the Scottsdale Leadership Board of Directors, and helps put together the Healthcare Day for the new classes. She thinks that Scottsdale Leadership is in a good place right now. She really hopes our organization will keep striving to bolster the diversity of our classes. 


Liz told us her personal life is in a really good place right now also. She loves to travel and being with her friends. She also is really active in mentoring young people, and really enjoys that. We asked her if someone had mentored her in early career and she said that there was no one around to do that. That is why she really goes out of her way to be that person for others. 


Adventurers like Liz tend to be restless people. But at some point, they slow down a bit and relish the memories they have created. We think Liz is in that position now. The good news is that she is able to use all that accumulated knowledge and experience to help our community in many ways. She told us that makes it all worthwhile. We certainly agree. 


Craig Miller, Class 7


Dr. Frances Mills-Yerger, Class 16

Liz is a local girl.


She was raised in Phoenix. She did go down to Tucson for her college education at the University of Arizona (U of A) majoring in nutritional sciences and graduating in 1989. Her Mom was a social worker, and she really inspired Liz to give back to the community. That has guided her thought process all through her life.


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