Written by Patty Rasmussen Friday, December 09 2011
|Sidney James with her son, Ari Nahkjavan|
Ten years ago, in a move that can certainly be described as visionary, Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences formed the Women’s Philanthropy Board (WPB) under the leadership of Dean June Henton. The rationale was simple. Women were quickly becoming the predominant wealth owners in the country, and, as a result, the face of philanthropy would change. Henton was building on the historic role women have taken in philanthropy, giving of their time and talents. But as wealth began to shift, acquired through business, investments, or inheritance, women would seek assistance in learning how to practice philanthropy in a strategic way.
Replicating what she learned from colleagues in conversations and conferences, Henton introduced the idea of a board both to women leaders on the Auburn campus and those in the community at large. These founding members of the WPB settled on a vision and mission that has not altered over time: to promote women’s philanthropy and to educate, empower, and enable women, men, students, and children of all ages to develop their full leadership potential, achieve independence as financial donors and decision makers, serve as mentors for future generations of philanthropists, and broaden the base of financial support for the College of Human Sciences.
|Olivia and Holland at the food bank|
|Creighton at the food bank|
The WPB upholds its vision and mission a number of ways. Throughout the year the board hosts educational programs that focus on financial and philanthropic responsibility and a series of round-table and networking events as well as annual luncheons, receptions, and symposia. The board also was the inspiration for a unique and exciting university course.
“Three years ago I piloted a course for undergraduate students called ‘Gender, Wealth, and Philanthropy,’” says James. “From this course we have created, and now are in the first semester of launching, a minor (for undergraduates) in Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies, which is rare, nationally.”
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, more than 300 colleges and universities offer courses in nonprofit management, most for graduate education. “Very few courses of study actually blend this notion of financial and philanthropic responsibility at the undergraduate level,” says James. “A lot of times you can take a finance course or a wealth management course, but it’s not necessarily overlaid with gender-related distinctions and then paired with philanthropy. To us it’s very important, especially as millennials come of age, that they understand how to be philanthropists and that they are part of that process.”
|Kelsey Dalton and Camp iCare campers|
All these programs have come under the umbrella of the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies, which moved into its new home, the historic Halliday-Cary-Pick House, in July. The house was the generous gift of Mrs. Francis Pick Dillard, a founding member of the WPB.
“We’ve now launched an academic center that houses our programs,” says James.
Having the Cary Center as a place to call home is important not just because of what the building houses, but where the building came from: several generations of the Cary family starting with Dr. Charles Allen Cary in 1892. From that time until 2006, at least one member of the family lived in the house, and all of them were deeply involved in giving back to the Auburn community.
|Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies|
And in giving the house, the family demonstrated exactly what the Cary Center and WPB promotes -- strategic, sustainable giving. “It has enormous representation of a family coming together and making a collective decision to be philanthropic while upholding their family legacy,” says James. “By gifting the house to the College of Human Sciences, the university will continue to promote a shared vision and mission and pass it on to many generations of students that will pass through these doors.”
One of the most unique features of the home is a 360-degree staircase, built by an itinerant French cabinetmaker. “It’s the only one like it in the country,” says James. “We think it’s symbolic when we try to inspire philanthropy in others. We’re doing so in 360 degrees of your life, everywhere you turn. You can be a philanthropist and make an impact.”
Patty Rasmussen is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. She spent 12 years covering the Atlanta Braves for ChopTalk Magazine and has written for Major League Baseball publications, Georgia Trend magazine, WebMD, and Blue Ridge Country.