March 18, 2021

To my Spelman family,

Yesterday, we suffered the unexpected loss of one of the most cherished members of the Spelman community, Robert “Danny” Flanigan Jr. Few epitomized the spirit of Spelman the way that Danny did. Few did as much to transform Spelman into a leading liberal arts college. Few will leave a vacancy as big as the one Danny leaves behind.

In his half century of service, Danny managed the business, operations and investment portfolio for six Spelman presidents beginning in 1970 with Albert Manley. President Manley hired Danny
, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University who went on to earn an MBA from Emory University, as assistant to the business manager. Over the years he progressed rapidly to treasurer and vice president of business and finance and chief financial officer. At the time of his death, he had risen to the level of Spelman’s executive vice president, treasurer and chief investment officer.

Danny was always two steps ahead of whomever he served. His infinite curiosity led him always to be on the look-out for pitfalls for Spelman to avoid and to hunt opportunities for Spelman to seize. As faithful as Danny may have been to Spelman, he was a legend in the world of finance. Over the years, he developed a reputation as a lightening fast learner with formidable intellectual acumen and the ability to see keenly what others missed completely. Under Danny’s watchful eye and with the assistance of his devoted investment team and trustee advisors like former trustee Jonathan Smith and current trustee Ted Aronson, the Spelman endowment grew from $29 million when Danny took over the reins to over $400 million today. Our Spelman students have reaped the benefits.

During his tenure, Danny managed more than $600 million of the College’s assets, and was instrumental in the development and construction of several buildings on campus, including the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center, the Albro-Falconer-Manley Science Center, the Beverly Daniel Tatum Suites and the new Wellness Center at Read Hall. He also developed funding sources to support the renovation of the Albert E. Manley College Center, MacVicar Hall and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller residence hall.

For many years Danny seemed to have his hand in everything. When I came to Spelman almost six years ago, Danny was in charge of public safety, the dining hall, the bookstore, parking and facilities and grounds management. Even with his hands full with overseeing operational responsibilities, his expertise and clear-eyed stewardship kept Spelman’s institutional budgets balanced, its audits clean and its Moody rating A1.
His deft leadership positively impacted thousands of Spelman students, including those who are recipients of the Robert “Danny” Flanigan Endowed Scholarship.

Yesterday, I had the difficult task of calling some of the members of his team to share the terrible news of his passing. To listen to his team receive the news of his death was to feel the searing pain of his loss. Danny could be a tough and demanding boss, but he was also the most loyal friend that anyone could ask for. Losing him is like losing some combination of your favorite family member and best friend. He was honest, and his honesty invited trust. He was direct and never coated the truth with anything but more truth.

Over the years, I found that I could bring any problem to his doorstep. He had a perceptive take on it, whatever the problem might be. I also learned that when he asked to see me, I needed to stop everything I was doing and listen to every word he had to say very carefully. Danny was one of my most trusted advisors.  

Spelman has been fortunate to have had a string of successful presidents. And each and every one of us knows that none of us could have succeeded to the extent that we did without Danny’s wisdom, guidance and ability to tell it to us straight, with infinite love for the institution he served so well.

I know that you join me in extending deepest sympathy to Lois, Danny’s beautiful wife of 50 years, and his son Robbie, who always made him so proud, and to all of the members of Danny’s family, whom he loved dearly.

As we celebrate his life and his tremendous commitment to Spelman, we would love to include your remembrances of him in our tribute. Please share them with us on

Danny’s faith in Spelman College was boundless and with his passing, I hear the words of scripture, 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

With tears and sorrow,

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College


Office of the President
Phone: 404-270-5001

Fax: 404-270-5010

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