Envisioning the Emory of Tomorrow

by Stacey Jones

Almost four years after President James W. Wagner’s arrival, his leading Emory to articulate a vision for itself as “an inquiry-driven, ethically engaged, and diverse community” has come to fruition in the minds of the many donors, friends, faculty, and staff who’ve taken the idea to heart. The scope and breadth of interests found in this year’s profiled donors speak to an assortment of inspirations in giving to Emory. They are linked by the belief that, at Emory, people are actively searching for answers to some of life’s most vexing questions while at the same time creating a community of scholars who enjoy the pursuit of education and later take their search for continued knowledge out into the world. Following is a brief representation of the many donors who gave so generously to Emory this year. Read more of their stories online and see the complete list of 2005–2006 donors at www.dur.emory.edu/donor-report/.

The Emory Alumni Board achieved 100 percent giving for this donation cycle, and challenged the boards of other schools and units to do the same. This also was the year when a Long Island boy on the precipice of manhood showed a view of the world that belied his tender age, by giving a portion of his bar mitzvah gifts to the Emory Vaccine Center to help find a cure for AIDS. “I chose this because a very close friend of my family is suffering from this disease. . . . I think that it is time for me to help him,” thirteen-year-old Ben Rechler said.

Elsewhere at Emory, where the goal is preventing debilitating disease, Atlanta entrepreneur and developer and University trustee emeritus Thomas Cousins gave $3 million to create the Center for Health Discovery and Well-Being. Part of the Predictive Health Institute at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Midtown Atlanta, the center will develop models of good health; facilitate the translation of clinical research into health predictors and interventions; and offer clinical care. Predictive health is one of the cross-cutting initiatives identified in Emory’s strategic plan and the institute is working toward a “new model of health and healing for the twenty-first century,” according to associate vice president Kenneth Brigham, director of the Predictive Health Initiative.

These types of gifts stem from forward-looking donors; others come from those who look back. Two Oxford College alumni gave toward the renovation of Emory’s oldest building, Phi Gamma, which was built to house the first of the college’s literary and debating societies. Randy Towers 80OX 83B and Lin Thompson 57OX 60C each donated $4,000 to help fund the building’s restoration to a study space that will eventually link to a new Library and Information Technology Center.

Ruth Rocker 00L gives to organizations at the School of Law that were important to her as a student. Now a public defender in DeKalb County, Georgia, she received Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) grants that helped define her career choice, and she found a fellow student in the Black Students Law Association (BSLA) to be an important ally and mentor her first year. “EPIC and BSLA, had it not been for those two, I probably would have never met the incredible lawyers I met here or taken the leap” into public interest law, Rocker said. She now counsels students nervous about moving from law school into public interest law to jump right in—if that’s their passion. “You’ll survive,” she tells them. “That’s why I’m still here.”

Thomas Hines 73G looked back at the faculty who inspired him as a graduate student. His decision to endow a French studies scholarship was based “on the close-knit relationship that developed during my two-year stay as a doctoral candidate between me and the faculty members at the time, especially professors Grant Kaiser and Arthur Evans, who served as mentors and encouraged my development as a teacher and scholar,” he says. The $2,500 scholarship is awarded at the end of each academic semester to a first-year student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences identified by the French faculty as having done outstanding work.

Faculty members feel an urge to give, too. Candler School of Theology professors emeriti John and Adrienne Carr created a travel fund that allows the school’s professors to study in developing or non-Western nations. “Our gift has been inspired by what we have heard from faculty at other seminaries regarding the difference a Third World experience has made in their teaching,” the Carrs say. They hope especially that junior faculty will take advantage of the fund to study the cultural and scholarly traditions of the church in developing countries.

At Goizueta Business School, Kellstadt Professor of Marketing Jagdish “Jag” Sheth and his wife, Maduhri, donated $250,000 to endow the Sheth Research Fellowship for Doctoral Studies. The fellowship will award all doctoral students who successfully pass the qualifying exam $1,000 toward their dissertation research. “When I was a doctoral student, I struggled enormously,” says Sheth. “When I did receive money for my doctoral studies, it was invaluable to me, so I wanted to do the same for the PhD students here at Emory.” He hopes the gift will inspire his colleagues to give sooner rather than later. “When a faculty member gives back, it is usually in the form of planned giving left in a will,” Sheth says. “My view is it would be nice to do something while you’re alive and active and can see your contribution make a difference.”

Others appear to share Sheth’s perspective: Donors to Emory College are sponsoring new lockers used by student-athletes, a fund-raising effort that has led to greater visibility for Emory’s eighteen increasingly heralded Division III team sports. The students themselves are taking part in finding donors, with the nationally ranked women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams leading the effort.

The transformative research being conducted at Emory does inspire its friends and graduates to give, but sometimes people's ordinary needs capture donors’ enthusiasm as well. Last year the Blank Foundation, created by Emory Trustee and Home Depot founder Arthur Blank, funded a study that examined the activities and perspectives of the users of eighty-seven of Atlanta’s parks. In an innovative collaboration, Goizueta MBA students were trained by Rollins School of Public Health faculty and staff to conduct park inventories and park-user surveys as part of the introductory leadership course at Goizueta. The Rollins and Goizueta students and faculty presented their results to the city’s Bureau of Parks and its park advocates and, in addition, provided an updated inventory of park facilities. “By collaborating across our respective schools, we were able to apply both health and business perspectives on park use and management,” said Rollins Assistant Professor Karen Mumford, the study’s coinvestigator.

In this, and in so many other ways, the diverse body of people who carry out Emory’s commitment to teaching, health care, and scholarship “work collaboratively for positive transformation in the world,” no matter how small or large that “world” becomes. Their work is helped immeasurably by the donors, small and large, whose ability to envision the Emory—and the world—of tomorrow inspires them to give.

Additional reporting by Jane Howell and Erin Whitlock.





 © 2007 Emory University