My first experience with philanthropy in higher education was as a recipient. Preparing to transfer from a community college to a four-year institution, I was concerned about affordability; working a job and a half while attending school full-time would be challenging.
One of my professors suggested that I apply for scholarships available for graduating students and supplied me with a list. I submitted applications for several of them and was delighted to receive a handful of small awards. While none of them provided more than $1,000, the total gave me a generous transition account that made transferring possible.
As a condition of the awards, I was required to write thank-you notes to the scholarship funders/foundations, which I happily did, expressing my gratitude and explaining that the money would enable me to cut back on work and become a full-time student.
I was surprised to receive a response to one of my notes, a three-page letter written in shaky script that attested to the age of its writer. She explained that she had served as a nurse during World War II and had attended school because of the generosity of benefactors. She wanted to give back and help others as she had been helped.
I accepted her philosophy, along with her financial aid, and decided that I, too, would someday help others in need. And there is no shortage of need. In addition to students’ scholarship funds, areas of importance to me include the Diversity Fund, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Caring Fund, Hancher, and the Center for Human Rights. There are also off-campus agencies that help make our community a better place for everyone and thus merit my support, including the United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Animal Shelter.
I recognize that the help I received long ago enabled me to reach a place where I can now help others. My philanthropic role is important and fulfilling, and I am delighted that we have the opportunity to celebrate together during Phil’s Day.
Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President
University of Iowa