ASU remembers Lonnie Ostrom for his service to students, colleagues, donors

Ostrom served as president of ASU Foundation, professor of marketing and former associate dean in W. P. Carey School of Business

Lonnie and Martha Ostrom

When asked about lessons learned throughout his life, Lonnie Ostrom’s most important takeaway was: “Friendships and relationships dominate the memories you carry with you. That’s what life is all about.”

Ostrom adhered to this principle closely, through his unwavering commitment to developing meaningful relationships with each student, benefactor and colleague he worked with.  

An Air Force veteran who died on July 4, Ostrom spent just shy of 50 years developing these relationships and advancing the future of ASU for generations to come. He was 80 years old.  

When he assumed the helm of the ASU Foundation in 1982, Ostrom inherited a nascent fundraising organization. By the time he retired as president in 2005, he had transformed Arizona State University’s ability to raise support for its students, faculty and programs.

A professor of marketing and former associate dean in the W. P. Carey School of Business, Ostrom’s leadership and vision — demonstrated in new programs such as the President’s Club, Sun Devil Family Association, and Women & Philanthropy — changed the culture of philanthropy at ASU by breaking all previous expectations of what could be accomplished through fundraising.

“Lonnie Ostrom’s work, vision and love for ASU helped lay the foundation for the 21st century university we are evolving,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “As a professor, administrator and fundraiser, Lonnie had a special understanding of ASU and over more than two decades, he translated that knowledge to establish innovative avenues of support that are still thriving today.”

Lonnie Ostrom wears a brown suit and smiles for his headshot

Lonnie Ostrom. Photo courtesy of Shelley Valdez/ASU

Ostrom was audacious in his out-of-the-box thinking, leading the first two universitywide comprehensive campaigns at ASU — the Campaign for ASU and the ASU Campaign for Leadership. In both, he and the dynamic board he recruited led the foundation and university community in setting ambitious goals and then exceeding their ambitions.

Through these forward-thinking campaigns, Ostrom led the university in focusing on its priorities and deciding exactly what kind of university it wanted to be. His leadership, which Ostrom attributed to “a commitment to making work fun,” enabled ASU to take its place among the nation’s major institutions of higher learning worthy of private support.

“Lonnie’s tenure at the ASU Foundation was truly a defining moment for ASU,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “We are grateful for his dedication to the success of our university and our students. He left a legacy that will be treasured.”

Ostrom is survived by his wife, Martha, children Amy Ostrom (President's Professor, former interim dean for the W. P. Carey School of Business and PetSmart Chair in Service Leadership), Ryan Ostrom and Jennifer Ostrom, stepchildren Amy O’Melia-Endres (former associate vice president of planned giving and development officer the ASU Foundation), Erin Tawney, Kathleen O’Melia and Kelly Delmore, and 13 grandchildren.

Top photo: Martha and Lonnie Ostrom pictured in 2016. Photo courtesy of the Ostrom family

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