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United Way Kick-Off Breakfast

“Giving and Happiness”

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

Russell Sage Dining Hall Banquet Rooms
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Good morning, and welcome to the official launch of our 2013 United Way Fundraising Campaign. At Rensselaer, we are well aware of the many fields in which we lead the way: in biotechnology, in advanced materials, in energy and smart systems engineering, in the digital arts, in computational science and engineering of all kinds.

However, we should be equally proud of another form of leadership, called generosity and concern for one’s neighbors. Among the colleges and universities of the Capital Region, Rensselaer was first in employee giving to United Way last year, first in employee per capita giving, and first in employee participation.

Thank you to everyone who made that possible!

This morning, once again, we are fortunate to have with us from the United Way of the Greater Capital Region, Brian Hassett, President and CEO, and Jim Mulligan, Vice President of Donor Relations. Kevin O’Connor, the Executive Director of Joseph’s House & Shelter here in Troy, also has joined us to tell us what our efforts mean to our neighbors most in need. I want to welcome, also, the members of the President’s Cabinet and Deans’ Council who have joined us.

I want to thank my co-chairs, Chuck Carletta, Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel, Jacqueline Farmer of DotCIO, and Tanya Rautine of the Office of the Vice President for Research, for helping to steer this campaign. I also thank this year’s Campaign coordinators: Kim Cardillo, Cindy Novak, and Sharon Simmons.

I want to single out our student representatives, Matt Bechtel and Jackie Doll of the Class of 2014, and Samantha Holton of the Class of 2016. I would wager that these three students were born civic-minded—and as soon as they receive their Rensselaer degrees, will transform our world into gentler, more tolerant place.

I am grateful to the rest of the campaign committee:

  • Dana Chichester
  • Nicole Durrick
  • Denise Elwell
  • Mark Maiellaro
  • Marie McDowell
  • Jenni Mullet
  • Sherry Perpetua
  • Danielle Rinaldi
  • Bonnie Skarka
  • Cynthia Smith
  • Pam Zepf.

And I am grateful to all of our volunteers, too numerous to name. It is a testament to your great generosity, and to the generous spirit of the Rensselaer community, that so many of you are contributing your time, as well as your talents, to this campaign.

I thank each of you for your commitment. You are helping the United Way of the Greater Capital Region to offer support to many local organizations. In addition to Joseph’s House & Shelter, those based in Troy include the Capital District Community Gardens, Unity House, and the Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County.

Our goals this year are to exceed the total amount given last year, nearly $104,000. Last year, we had 24% participation. We can be proud that nearly one in four employees of Rensselaer contributed, but there is ample room to increase participation.

This year, I offer four suggestions:

First, simply ask people to participate. If you ask, they will remember that they can participate and that their participation has value.

Second, let people know—including those who are not on your lists— that you are participating. It sets an example, and it makes them feel that they are part of something that is real and vital.

Third, encourage them to identify a donation buddy. This sort of teaming makes people more than donors. They truly are participants if they bring a friend along.

And fourth, understand that you are adding to your donors’ store of happiness, since a number of social scientists have identified giving as one of the experiences most likely to make us happy. “Live united” is the theme of this year’s campaign. We humans enjoy life more when we “live united” and take care of our neighbors.

Once again, I thank each of you for volunteering, and for participating in the various planned fundraising events, including a pizza party and bake sale, a Thanksgiving feast, and the popular Community Fair, which this year will be held on Wednesday, December 4th.


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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