April 26, 2010

First Person: Give to where your heart is

Sally Lehr (left) and Ginger Cain

Ginger Cain‘77C-‘82G is director of public programs for Emory Libraries and co-chair of MyEmory.

When the MyEmory campaign was launched during Founders’ Week in early February, perhaps you wondered two things: Why is the employee campaign called MyEmory, and why should employees give to Emory?

Calling the special employee portion of Campaign Emory by the title MyEmory acknowledges that each of us has a very personal picture of Emory. The employee campaign honors that individuality yet brings together the power of employee giving under the MyEmory umbrella.

Employee giving sends a strong and positive message in many ways. It affirms that we believe in the place where we work. It tells outside donors and granting agencies that Emory has the support of its own employees and is a great place to invest their donor dollars. It builds community from within as each employee donor sees his or her giving become part of an impressive employee total.

When anyone asks why I give to Emory, the short answer is that I believe in Emory. I believe in what it stands for, I believe in what it does, and I believe it what it can accomplish.

Much of my life has been spent at Emory. Soon I will celebrate the 37th anniversary of my arrival at Emory as a freshman and my 33rd year as an Emory employee. I can still remember making my first gift to Emory. It was a modest gift —  $25 — but it was very meaningful to me to become an Emory donor. And, I have given to Emory every year since then. This year, I will celebrate the 34th anniversary of that first gift, and I intend to keep giving to Emory every year until the planned gift in my will comes to Emory at the time of my death.

Each time I give to Emory, I feel as if I am playing a small role in perpetuating an enduring legacy that reaches back to the founding of Emory College at Oxford in 1836. The young college struggled for decades, and there were many times when the easiest thing to do would have been to close down the nearly bankrupt enterprise and consign Emory College to the pages of history. But that never happened because each time, those individuals who believed in Emory’s mission and future refused to give up on what they knew Emory could become. Our gifts, whether great or small, given to an area of Emory that speaks to our hearts and minds, become part of Emory’s history and Emory’s future.

For each of us, the MyEmory campaign offers meaningful return on our investment. MyEmory gives each of us the chance to invest in where we work, to demonstrate our pride in and hope for Emory, to join a community of supporters that spans every continent and many decades, and to see our gifts and others come together in a powerful way that truly can make a difference in the world.

Sally Lehr ‘65N -’76MN  is a clinical associate professor at Nell Hodgson School of Nursing and co-chair of MyEmory.

Realizing that each person has unique reasons for charitable giving, I hope that some of my reasons for giving to Emory will resonate with others. Often, when asked for money, I am initially hesitant, thinking, “I already give enough.” My husband, on the other hand, says “I’ll give to whoever asks me.” Very different perspectives.

Both of us give to Emory and have for many years. Giving to Emory is just what we do — but why?  We are both alums, and between us we have four Emory degrees. We met at Emory. Two of our three daughters were born at Emory. We are continually grateful for the stellar education we received, the connections we made, the wonderful health care we’ve received, and the doors that have opened for us because of Emory.

Most of the people who are Emory’s faculty and staff today are not alums, and have been at Emory varying lengths of time, some for only a short while, others for many years. I have worked here in some capacity almost every year since I graduated. Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve been in some type of rich learning environment and had remarkable and wonderful colleagues, a number who have become lifelong friends. Always I have seen amazing things happening at Emory — outstanding leaders, teachers, mentors, role models, and students; exceptional health care; cutting edge knowledge generation and transmission; and service to others in unique and ever-expanding ways. Every time I’ve needed information or a resource, someone from Emory has helped me. The connections are all around.

When I can “put a face on” where my money goes, I see the faces of so many wonderful students who, because of “our” donations, were able to get the kind of education I received. They have gone on to make remarkable contributions to health care around the world, and I have felt myself a part of what they’ve done. The MyEmory campaign makes it possible for all of us to “put a face on” where our money goes by having so many creative choices. And the clear focus on participation, regardless of amount, allows each of us to realize we’re an important part of what’s happening and tells everyone we’re proud to be a part of Emory.

In high school when I was looking for colleges to attend, my dad said, “You want to go to a school you can be proud of.” The only school I applied to was Emory. Today when I tell people I work at Emory, I continue to feel proud. Shared values, countless connections, a sense of ownership, appreciation of our past, commitment to our present, and investment in our future — all these to me are sound reasons for giving to Emory. In being a part of MyEmory, my hope is that each of us — and all of us — will have a deeper sense of community and feelings of joy in the giving.

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