Life-changing experiences can be positive or they can be negative, but both drive meaningful philanthropy. The latter was the case with this donor.

When development approached, I said to them, “I’d like to have an opportunity to speak to the dean and tell him exactly what I thought of what happened 25 years ago.”

I’m not going to say I had an awful time at the university, but I felt that something was missing. I had some great instructors and some great professors, but I also had some not so great ones. When you’re 21, 22 years old, there’s a lot of insecurity. You get taken advantage of sometimes. I just think it could have been better in certain aspects.

And they acknowledged and validated what happened.

They also arranged engagement opportunities, bringing him back to campus for the first time at the dean’s invitation. He had the opportunity to give a guest lecture, an honor that went a long way toward repairing his relationship with the university. But he didn’t rely only on his own experience to determine whether the college had changed for the better; he asked around.

I actually interviewed the students. I said, “Hey, are you guys enjoying yourselves? Do you feel it’s of great value to you?” And they all said, “Yes, it’s great.” So I saw a change in the philosophical approach to education. And that got me thinking about coming back. To make a change. To make an impact.

Now he has made significant philanthropic contributions to help solidify the direction his alma mater has taken in recent years.

Good things happen if the institution is in the right spot. They showed me what it is they were trying to do, and why. They were very honest with me. And I thought it would be a cool thing, an opportunity to give to the university I graduated from.


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