My changed donation philosophy

By Dr. Michael Hogan

I don’t donate much money to my alma mater any more.

I used to, but I have had a change in my charitable donation philosophy.

I am not disappointed with my alma mater; in fact, I am very proud of it. It does a tremendous job. I believe it is a wonderful institution, and I believe it produces extremely talented graduates.

It may seem paradoxical, but that’s the exact reason I no longer contribute.

At a recent college reunion, I admired the successes of my college classmates: their fame, their high salaries, their outstanding careers. A few were even singled out because of their national achievements or their political success.

I was amazed how much money had been donated by the various alumni classes. I then anticipated the outstanding success the members of future graduating classes would have. Almost all of them would be capable of making large donations to the college. The college would have no problem sustaining its educational mission. There would be no problem supporting the music department or the athletic department or any other department.

I wondered, “Why should I make a donation to this institution, even if it is my alma mater? It has so many resources to draw from.”

A while later I thought about a graduation ceremony at a very distinguished and well-known academic university. Their starting salaries and their prestigious positions at nationally recognized firms were astounding.

The accompanying dinner and cocktail party at the latter institution were elegant. The guests arrived in classy cars, and, of course, valet parking was available. The women had well-coiffed hairdos, and their stylish dresses were stunning. Again, I wondered, “Why should I make a donation to such an institution? It has so many resources to draw from.”

Then I attended a “graduation ceremony” at an institution for the handicapped. About 50 percent of the graduates had Down Syndrome. I would guess that none of these graduates would ever make more than the minimum wage, and none would be able to make a large donation to the institution. No graduate would be able to help sustain the educational mission of the institution. There would be no academic chairs named after any of them.

I also was a guest at an informal reunion and dance at this same institution for the handicapped. What a joy! The attendees had almost all the same emotions as those seen at the institutions for the intellectually gifted. There was the happiness of seeing long lost friends. There were the friendly greetings, and the happy personal interactions.

There were several major differences. There was no personal or social embarrassment because of clumsy dance steps or improper grammar. There were no false airs of supremacy, nor were there any expressions of jealousy.

There was no braggadocio. No gossip. There was only a group of individuals having fun.

This was the type of institution where my donations would go. I admire these institutions for the handicapped, and I treasure the dedicated staff who serve those individuals.

It’s embarrassing to refuse a monetary request from your alma mater. I’ve declined as politely and as logically as I can. Some understand, some don’t, some are completely bewildered.

It’s great to have different opinions when considering which institutions to contribute to. Unfortunately, some “graduates” never get a chance to make that choice.

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