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2012 United Way Thank You Luncheon

Remarks by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Russell Sage Dining Hall
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY

Monday, January 7, 2013


Good afternoon. Welcome! Last fall, I stood here with you at a breakfast to kick off our 2012 United Way fundraiser. Now—two and a half months later—we celebrate the completion of yet another successful campaign, thanks to your hard work, persistence, and enthusiasm. The Rensselaer community has come through once again in its support for our local United Way.

I join the organizers of this event in extending a warm welcome to our guests from the United Way of the Greater Capital Region: Mr. Brian T. Hassett, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Mr. Jim Mulligan, Vice President of Donor Relations. We are delighted you are here with us today.

I would like to acknowledge those of you who were instrumental in this effort, starting with our dedicated and tireless campaign co-chairs:

  • Charles Carletta, Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel
  • Jacqueline Farmer, DotCIO (Division of the Chief Information Officer)
  • and Tanya Rautine, Office of Research

We could not have accomplished this without you. Also, I would like to offer a special thanks to Chuck Carletta for his generous support.

Likewise, I would like to thank the members of our hard-working Steering Committee, whom I will acknowledge by name:

  • Kim Cardillo, Institute Advancement
  • Dana Chichester, School of Engineering
  • Nicole Durrick, Lally School of Management
  • Barbara Dzembo, Administration
  • Denise Elwell, Research
  • Erin Glasheen, HASS
  • Marie McDowell, Human Resources
  • Cindy Novack, Provost Office
  • Danielle Rinaldi, Bursar
  • Bonnie Skarka, Enrollment
  • Sharon Simmons, School of Science
  • and Cynthia Smith, Student Life.

Of course, I also extend my thanks to the 60-plus volunteers who donated their time and energy, putting in hours when and where they were needed. To all of you, please know that your help was invaluable.

And I would be remiss if I did not offer a big thank you to the local vendors who generously donated raffle prizes and services; they are listed on the back of your program.

I realize it can be a challenge to get people to reach into their wallets and donate year after year. This time around, we faced a new challenge: Less than a week after our kick-off breakfast, Super Storm Sandy pummeled the East Coast. At the same time that we were making appeals for our campaign, the Rensselaer community was being encouraged to donate to storm relief efforts, as well.

While some fundraisers might view this as an added challenge, we saw it as an opportunity to underscore the importance of giving generously to those in need, whatever the need—whether due to poverty or poor health, or to the sudden vagaries of a superstorm.

For example, funds raised from our new United Way penny wars were earmarked for the United Way 2-1-1—a central source for information on local and regional relief efforts—as well as to the American Red Cross. The penny wars, as you know, was our way of making students more aware of our annual campaign. Clearly, it worked, and our students benefitted by learning more about the United Way, while also assisting with Sandy relief.

We had another last-minute surprise—a happy one—when the Student Health Center joined our United Way fundraising efforts with a pizza party and bake sale on November 13th. I thank the Student Health Center, and to medical assistant Tami Simmons, for coming up with the idea and seeing it through.

Indeed, this campaign was about shaking things up a bit, with new events such as Moe’s Days, and seldom-seen ones like our quadrennial Election Day barbeque, and new twists, like converting our Thanksgiving feast into a fundraiser.

So how did we do this year? I am pleased to report that we raised $100,317 (last year $100,247). We had 400 individual donors, with an average gift of $248.44. Twenty-six gifts were over $1,000, and forty-nine gifts were over $500.

Thank you for a job well done!

Looking back at the ways in which Sandy impacted so many people within our extended Rensselaer community, I think our experiences highlight a difficult truth: that the line between donor and recipient is never certain. Today we may be the ones extending a helping hand. But, on another day, we may find ourselves on the receiving end of another’s generosity. This makes each of us more acutely aware of why our local United Way, which does so much good here in the Capital Region, needs and deserves our support. The United Way is an intrinsic part of a larger network that can, and does,  mobilize to support emergency relief efforts.

As we close the books on our 2012 campaign, I thank you again for your dedication, your time, and, importantly, your generosity in helping the United Way fulfill its mission to improve lives and conditions across the Greater Capital Region. What you have done these past months is of immense value, and I am deeply appreciative.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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