As a child, I remember my parents placing stacks of envelopes in our front hall, waiting to be mailed. These envelopes contained checks and were heading to a range of nonprofit institutions — educational, social service, artistic, political, local, national, and international. I remember asking my parents why they were sending so much money to organizations of which I had never heard. They explained to me that they believed in charity and in helping to build a better world. Envelopes would also appear during times of major life events—in memory of, in honor of, in celebration of, in appreciation of—a person, a couple, an act of love.
My father, an educator, particularly enjoyed giving to educational institutions because he believed education was the key to opportunity for those less fortunate. He thought of it as his best investment in the future. Both my parents grew up during the Depression. Their families had struggled. For them, college and graduate school created a path not only to enlightenment and lifelong intellectual engagement, but also to opportunity.
My parents are gone. But their memory lives on. Every time my wife and I write a check or give online, I remember my father and mother and their commitment to teaching me about charity and giving back. We have tried to instill in our children the same values. In our home, we discuss the importance of helping those less fortunate and figuring out charitable priorities. We make this an annual occasion, and like our parents, often honor people or celebrate occasions by making charitable gifts.
Oberlin alumni and friends tend to be philanthropic. They desire to change the world and help others. An annual gift to Oberlin, whether large or small, stands for something powerful. It says you and your family believe in education and the spirit of inquiry and excellence as the pathway to better lives and a more just society. It says you want to share that belief with your family and future generations. And it says to others that you value what you and your family received from the exceptional education only Oberlin provides.
Please consider making your support of Oberlin an annual tradition. It's never too late to start. Recently, I was visited by an Oberlin alumna who has had a successful career in business. She had not been back to campus in over a decade, nor had she felt terribly connected to Oberlin, even though she maintained friendships with many fellow alumni. But she described feeling drawn back to Oberlin, to give, to reconnect, and to recognize that within her was an Oberlin spirit that had significantly shaped her life. I encourage all alumni to visit us and reconnect — in person, on the web, through social media, or through phone calls and notes. Your annual giving sustains the faculty, staff, and students of Oberlin. Every gift affirms the hope that future generations of Oberlin students, faculty, and staff will make a difference and build an even better world.