Our Staff

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  • Rebecca Surian

    Executive Associate Athletics Director and Senior Director of Development


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    Rebecca Surian joined the Spartan Fund in April, 2021 as Senior Director of Development. Surian will guide the Spartan Fund as the Senior Director of Development, while serving on the department’s executive leadership team. The job entails fundraising, personnel management and program management. Surian will maintain a personal portfolio of major and principal gift prospects, while also directing a Spartan Fund staff that includes 14 full-time employees, ensuring that the unit is acting in concert with the department’s priorities.

    Surian brings 30 years of fundraising experience at Michigan State to the athletic department. She comes to athletics from the College of Music, where she’s worked since 2006, including as Senior Director of Development since 2015. At the College of Music she spearheaded unprecedented success in philanthropy for the College’s students, faculty, programs and facilities, with more than $100M in gifts and commitments raised. During the recent Empower Extraordinary Campaign, the College exceeded its stretch-goal by 187%. In March 2020, the College of Music opened the doors to the newly constructed Billman Music Pavilion. Under Surian’s direction and leadership, the College surpassed its fundraising goal for the $41.5M new facility.

    A graduate of Michigan State, Surian joined the College of Music as Director of Development in 2006. Prior to that she served as the Director of Development for the College of Arts & Letters from 2001 to 2006. From 1995 to 2001, she was Director within the Special Giving Societies. From 1991 to 1995, she worked for the Annual Giving Programs, serving first as systems coordinator before being promoted to assistant director in 1993.

  • Mark Schoenl

    Associate Athletics Director and Director of Major Gifts


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    Mark leads the Major Gifts team, including all Spartan Fund Development Officers, in their efforts to establish donor relationships and cultivate significant financial gifts in support of MSU Athletics. During his tenure he led the development team during the MSU Empower Extraordinary Campaign, which secured almost $300M in Athletics giving, including over $60 million in gifts towards endowments for scholarship and program support for Spartan student-athletes. Additionally, he has spear-headed fund-raising efforts for several facility projects including securing lead-gifts, and worked collaboratively on some of the largest gifts in MSU Athletics and University history. The Spartan Fund team works closely with individual sport programs and head coaches, and Mark personally works with donors throughout the Northeast and Southeast U.S., Florida, and Michigan.

    Mark joined MSU as the first Director of Sales for Premium Seating in 2006, in which he increased sales over 15% each year, and transitioned to his role with the Major Gifts team in 2009 as an Associate Director of Development. He was promoted to Assistant Athletics Director for Development in 2014, and moved up to his current role in 2015 overseeing the Spartan Fund professional development staff and fund-raising priorities.

    Mark’s background includes a variety of roles working for an NFL franchise, collegiate sports marketing firm (Learfield), minor league baseball team, and an independent business news organization.

    Mark is a Michigan State University alumnus, as well as the University of Richmond. He currently resides in Okemos with his wife, and two sons, including a current Michigan State student.

  • Tim Day

    Associate Athletics Director, Development


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    Tim Day joined the Michigan State University Athletic Department’s development staff in September 2007.

    As an Associate Athletic Director/Development, Tim is charged with developing, implementing and evaluating all annual giving initiatives and programs – including acquisition, stewardship, and communication to the MSU Athletics donor base. Managing the Annual Giving team, Tim has also leads efforts pertaining to letter-winner giving, seat adjustments, and donor parking.

    Tim, a former letter-winner at Michigan State, played two seasons of professional baseball with the Chicago White Sox organization. Tim earned a bachelor’s of science degree (Kinesiology) from MSU in 2006 and continued his education by earning a master’s of science (Sports Administration) in 2009 from MSU.

    Tim and his wife, Alyssa, have four children, Easton, Rylan, Elijah, and Everett.

  • Bryan Hoch

    Assistant Athletics Director, Major Gifts & Premium Seating


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    Bryan Hoch joined the Spartan Fund staff in January 2013, previously working in the Spartan Ticket Office as the Assistant and Associate Ticket Manager since 2005.

    As Assistant Athletic Director for Major Gifts & Premium Seating, Bryan is responsible for securing significant philanthropic donations for the athletic departments capital projects, endowments, and sport/program specific support.  In addition, Bryan oversees the sales and management of suite, club, and courtside seating areas for MSU Athletics while ensuring premium seat donors have memorable game-day experiences.

    Bryan earned both B.S. and M.Ed. degrees in Sport Management from East Stroudsburg University (PA) where he was also a 4-year letter winner on the football team. Prior to MSU, Bryan worked in the athletic departments at Lehigh University and the University of Maryland.

    Bryan is a native of Bath, PA and currently resides in Lansing, MI with his wife, Dr. Sara Timmons-Hoch.

  • John Patterson

    Assistant Athletics Director, Development


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    John became a member of the Spartan Fund staff in August 2014 and was promoted to Assistant Athletics Director in December, 2020.  John will focus on engaging the Spartan family to create opportunities that will impact MSU student-athletes.

    Prior to Michigan State, John served as the Assistant Director of the National Commodore Club and Athletics Development at Vanderbilt University. Originally from Columbia, Tennessee, John graduated from the University of Memphis with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and was a football student-athlete. John also holds a master’s of business administration from Marshall University where he was a graduate assistant in the athletic department.

    John and his wife Jenny reside in East Lansing.

  • Connor Kruse

    Associate Director of Development


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    Connor Kruse joined the Michigan State University Athletic Department Spartan Fund staff in July 2018.  As an Associate Director of Development, Connor will focus on the cultivation and stewardship of Spartans In the Western US.

    Prior to the Spartan Fund, Connor worked as an Assistant Director of Development for the University of Colorado’s Buff Club under the Annual Fund.

    Connor graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and a master’s degree in sports administration. He is a former football letterwinner for the Spartans playing offensive line form 2012 – 2014.

    Connor and his wife Brittany currently reside in Lansing, MI.

  • Jason Varlesi

    Associate Director of Development


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    Jason became a member of the Spartan Fund staff in November 2021 as an Associate Director of Development and will focus on establishing and developing relationships with Spartans in his home region of Southeastern Michigan.

    Prior to Michigan State, Jason served as the Director of Development for Athletics at University of Detroit Mercy. During his time there, Jason oversaw fundraising and donor engagement efforts across the United States for Detroit Mercy’s 17 Division 1 teams while leading several multi-million-dollar athletic capital campaigns. Additionally, he was a key contributor to the university’s recently completed $100 million dollar campaign.

    Jason’s professional experience includes a variety of roles with the Detroit Tigers “AA” affiliate Erie Seawolves, the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters and Plymouth Whalers, along with several AAA hockey/venues in the Detroit area.

    Originally from Dearborn Michigan, Jason is a graduate of Western Michigan University where he received a bachelor’s of business administration in marketing and holds a master’s of business administration from University of Detroit Mercy.

    Jason and his wife Elisabeth reside in Plymouth with their children Peter and Fiona.

  • Ethan Hemer
  • Liz Rousseau

    Assistant Director of Development


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    Liz joined the Spartan Fund team in March 2022 as the Assistant Director of Development. Liz will continue to support the growth in building donor relationships and giving support to MSU and MSU Athletics throughout the southeast Michigan area.

    Prior to Michigan State, Liz served as an Assistant Director of Admissions with the University of Detroit Mercy from 2019-2022. She also served as the Marketing Event Coordinator and Event Marketing Manager for the Detroit Red Wings from 2015 to 2019.

    Liz graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in sport management, and a master’s degree in sport administration.


  • Sarah Skilling

    Senior Director of Special Events & Stewardship


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    Sarah Skilling has been with Michigan State University since July of 2007 and began working for the MSU Athletic Department in May of 2012.

    As the Director of Donor Relations and Events, Sarah’s main responsibilities include planning special events and experiences for Spartan Fund donors. She also works with internal and external groups and organizations on collaborative events related to MSU Athletics.

    After graduating from MSU in 2000 with an Advertising degree, Sarah worked at the Lansing State Journal for five years doing marketing, promotions, special events and community relations. She was also a special events coordinator for the MSU Federal Credit Union from 2005-2007. Before MSU Athletics, Sarah worked for the MSU Alumni Association and University Advancement departments from 2007-2012.

    Sarah is a native of Rockford, MI. She played basketball and softball in high school and continues to enjoy playing organized sports.

    Sarah resides in Lansing, MI.

  • headshot of Steven Kaatz in front of door.

    Steven Kaatz

    Assistant Director of Stewardship & Endowments


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    Steven became a member of the Spartan Fund staff in February 2022 as the Assistant Director of Stewardship & Endowments and will focus on creating a comprehensive stewardship matrix, identifying new stewardship opportunities for the various annual and philanthropic donor levels, and managing the athletic endowment process.

    Steven’s professional experience includes time spent the University of Maryland – College Park as a project coordinator, in the Office of Sponsored Programs at Michigan State University and six years as the Digital Community Coordinator in the Alumni Office at Michigan State.

    Originally from Leslie Michigan, Steven is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where he received a bachelor’s of science in Secondary Education. He played lacrosse at EMU and was named captain his junior and senior years. He has coached lacrosse for more than 10 years in the mid-Michigan area.

    Steven and his wife reside in Grand Ledge Michigan with their three young children.

  • Matt Read Headshot

    Matt Read

    Director of Internal Operations


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    Matt Read joined the Michigan State Spartan Fund in July of 2021.

    As the Director of Internal Operations, Matt is responsible for overseeing day-to-day department operations, implementing policies and procedures, and data analytics. Managing the Operations Team, Matt also leads all data management and donor service-related efforts.

    Prior to his time at Michigan State, Matt served as a Human Resources Associate with Stanford University Athletics from 2019 to 2021 and an Adjunct Professor of Sport Management at Menlo College for the 2020 academic year.

    Matt graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a bachelor of business administration and from Western Michigan University with a master’s in sport administration.

  • Sandra Debnar

    Communications Coordinator


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    Sandra joined the Spartan Fund team in November 2019. As the Communications Coordinator she creates graphics and multimedia content and handles the design for all development-related needs. She came to MSU from the State of Michigan where she worked for the Legislative Service Bureau for 17 years providing design, proofreading and professional typesetting, as well as photography and videography services.

    In 2018, Sandra was selected as one of 16 national candidates awarded the Joe Beirne Scholarship to assist in further¬ing professional development, and was also chosen as a 2019 Women in Art Series award winner in photography from the LCC Women’s History Collective.

    Sandra is a life-long Michigan native and enjoys photographing everything the Great Lakes State has to offer.

  • Jayme Bisard

    Administrative Assistant - Development Operations


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    Jayme joined Spartan Fund in June 2014. Jayme has worked at MSU since 2013 and prior to joining Spartan fund she worked at the College of Engineering providing support to the department of Mechanical Engineering. She came to MSU from Jackson National Life where she worked for 9 years with the Data Management Team as a team leader.

    Jayme and her husband reside in Williamston and enjoy spending their spare time running weekend races and enjoying the outdoors with their daughters, Evalyn and Hazel.

  • Mary Ruth Clewley

    Administrative Assistant - Gift Management


  • Gary Buckberry

    Administrative Assistant - Donor Relations


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    Gary joined the Spartan Fund team in July of 2019. As the Donor Service Assistant, Gary works with our donors to provide superior customer service while building relationships with Spartan Fund donors.

    Prior to joining the Spartan Fund staff, Gary worked in the Spartan Ticket Office providing assistance in a variety of capacities and also for the College of Education at Michigan State University.

    Gary graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing from the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University.  He also has a Master of Sport Management degree.

  • Madison Glatz