When Westminster Abbey—London’s storied burial place of kings and queens, statesmen, scientists, warriors, writers and musicians—decided to finance its first structural addition in 271 years, the perfect candidate to direct the fundraising effort turned out to be a Trojan.
Valerie Burdick Humphrey ’82 is the director of development for Westminster Abbey, where she leads a $30 million campaign to fund improvements to the sacred setting of every coronation since William the Conqueror in 1066. The Gothic church has been the venue for 16 royal weddings, including the most recent uniting Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
How does a kid from Southern California end up in London, in a role steeped in tradition and protocol? Humphrey points to the opportunity for overseas travel that USC offered her.
Although her father wanted her to join the family business, she had her sights set abroad from the start, beginning with living in the international dorm her freshman year.
“USC makes you think globally,” she says. “And I have always loved things international. Always studied languages. I first went to London at 17. I wanted to live abroad. It was just too exciting.”
In her last year at USC Marshall School of Business, she took an internship in Los Angeles with the Department of Commerce in its International Trade Administration.
Thanks to that job, she left for a yearlong internship at the American Embassy in Paris after graduation. Trojan connections made there led to work at Rockwell International in Orange County. While on a short-term assignment in London in 1989, she met her future husband and stayed.
Since then, her career includes a portfolio of international experiences, including fundraising for the World Wildlife Foundation and the National Trust in England, and three years in Italy as director of communications and development for Italy’s largest heritage organization.
USC makes you think globally. And I have always loved things international. Always studied languages.
Humphrey returned to USC in 2015 for the first time in 10 years to attend the Homecoming game and reunite with the Trojan Marching Band, in which she played the mellophone. “I’ve never had more fun,” she says of the reunion.
Since starting at the Abbey eight years ago, Humphrey has led fundraising efforts on several projects aimed at improving the visitor experience of one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions. Her current focus is creating a new exhibition space for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries— in an area of the Abbey that has never been open to the public and has not been used for anything but storage since its creation in the Middle Ages.
“The most amazing part of the project is that we’ll be building a new tower, which is the first physical addition to the abbey since its main towers were completed in 1745,” Humphrey says. “It’s about once in 10 generations that something like this takes place, and we’re the generation that’s actually doing it.”