You might have noticed we’ve changed the name of our division from Alumni and College Relations to Alumni, Communications and Philanthropy.
Why? We wanted to be more inclusive of everyone who works in our division, such as those who bring you this informative and inspiring magazine. We also wanted our work to be more transparent to our generous alumni and friends. We think our new name accomplishes both goals.
Philanthropy seems the more fitting description of our work to perpetuate Berea College’s mission well into the future. One definition of philanthropy is “voluntary action for the public good.” The notion of public good is important—because if something—in this case, higher education—isn’t available to all members of our society, it becomes instead a private good. When you give to Berea, you support making a superior college education more accessible than it otherwise might be. That’s the public good aspiration. That’s about investing in lives of great promise.
Some folks assume that wealth is a prerequisite for philanthropy, but that’s not the case. The true philanthropist is one who puts supporting the public good ahead of one’s own narrow financial interests. It is that generous spirit that is the true prerequisite for philanthropy whether or not one happens to be wealthy. I’m reminded of the parable of the widow’s mite in the Christian gospels, in which a widow gives generously despite her poverty.
Here is an even more inspiring example. In 2013, the College began Berea Patrons, a student-led philanthropy group to educate students about how the College provides Tuition Promise Scholarships to all admitted students. Students become Patrons by donating a portion of their labor earnings back to the College each pay period. In so doing, they affirm that philanthropy is about generosity rather than wealth.
Now, more than 60 percent of enrolled students belong to Berea Patrons. To date, Berea Patrons are closing in on almost $175,000 of cumulative philanthropy, giving anywhere from $1to $10 back to Berea each pay period from each Patron. For a first-year student, that average gift is a little over half an hour of pay per check given back. Again, the widow’s mite example is relevant: she, like the Patrons, gave at a bigger fraction of income than other wealthier givers. These student philanthropists have funded almost 60 Tuition Promise Scholarships. That is generosity in action.
We are proud of just how many Berea students are philanthropists even before they graduate. We hope this is an inspiration for every alumnus and friend to consider in your own philanthropy. As Patrons proudly say, “I’m a philanthropist.”
Vice President for Alumni, Communications and Philanthropy