In my 10+ years of raising funds for Saint John’s I have had the great honor of meeting and working with some tremendous human beings. They are highly successful people who lead not only in their careers but also in community involvement. And overall I’ve found them to be people of very high character.
About a year into this work a classmate of mine stated to me that I must work with some very large egos. I had to pause for a few seconds to ponder this. My response was that the typical Johnnie has enough ego to help him to be successful at his work, but it was not nearly large enough that you wouldn’t want to spend time with him. In other words, the Benedictine value of humility is very strong in our alumni and friends.
In this blog post, rather than feature a benefactor, I thought it would be a good time to focus on an ethos instead, and it’s one that animates so many of our benefactors. This idea sprang from a conversation I had with an alumnus back in 2006.
Over lunch with a 1960s alumnus, he mentioned that he could never truly repay either Saint John’s or the Benedictines who had taught him. However, he had devised a plan, and he had decided that at a bare minimum, and as a start, he wanted to pay back to Saint John’s the cost of this education (adjusted for inflation!) As I had more lunches, coffees and office meetings with alumni, I heard this theme repeated more and more often.
Recently, a classmate whose son is considering Saint John’s asked me what might be the average loan debt for a recent graduate of Saint John’s. After a little research, I went back to that classmate with the following comparison.
In 1990 the room, board and tuition at Saint John’s was roughly $12,000 per year, and a typical student graduated with a loan debt which was also about $12,000. Today a year of education, room and board at Saint John’s amounts to roughly $52,000. However, because of the generosity of our benefactors, the average loan debt is holding at around $35,000. When you stop to consider that, you begin to realize how incredible a feat that truly is. Benefactors do make a difference!
“Philanthropy” etymologically means “love of humanity,” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing the lives of both the benefactors and the people whom they help. At Saint John’s this translates into support for the Student Fund and in helping to build the endowment that will keep Saint John’s affordable and accessible to most students. Not surprisingly, these are and will continue to be our top goals going forward.
If you are searching for a reason to give to Saint John’s, perhaps “paying back” is a good reason to begin. Becoming a philanthropist — in the best sense of the word — is an even better reason to go forward.