National Philanthropy Week: Rice donors discuss importance of giving

A diverse group of Rice supporters gathered Thursday night in Fondren Library’s Kyle Morrow Room to share their unique, altruistic experiences at a panel discussion, “Faces of Philanthropy: A Conversation with Passionate Supporters of Rice.”

As part of National Philanthropy Week Nov. 12-16, the panelists examined the importance of giving, planting philanthropic seeds and the larger impact that supporting the university can have on the city of Houston.

As part of National Philanthropy Week Nov. 12-16, the panelists examined the importance of giving, planting philanthropic seeds and the larger impact that supporting the university can have on the city of Houston. Panelists included Brown College senior Kathleen Barker; businesswoman Sparky Frost ’07; Trilogee Venture Partners founder Terrence Gee ’86; David Gibbs ’71, president of real estate agency David K. Gibbs and Associates; Kim Koehn ’00, associate athletic director for development; and Don Woo, president of Mission Constructors Inc. and parent of two current Rice undergrads.

Provided with a unique opportunity to engage the Rice community – students, faculty, staff and alumni – in celebrating the broader culture of philanthropy at Rice, the panelists were posed a series of questions on the nature and importance of philanthropy.

Philanthropic memories

Each of the panelist recalled moments from their upbringings that instilled a giving attitude.

For Gibbs, giving began in the church as a child in Oklahoma City and seeing his family’s generosity.

“I remember the little envelopes they passed around in Sunday school and the impression it made on me,” he said. “It is a matter of modeling in the family and creating expectations even in small children.”

Because he is a parent himself now, modeling philanthropic behavior is very important.

“I’m a parent with three children, and we say, ‘You guys need to give back,’ but talking doesn’t do it. It’s the modeling.”

For Koehn, understanding the importance of philanthropy came a couple of years after she had graduated from Rice when she was discussing giving with a Rice fundraiser.

“(The fundraiser) came to me and had a conversation about exactly where the money actually goes,” Koehn said. “It was a like a bell going off for me when I realized that I not only needed to give, but I wanted to give.”

Life-changing experiences

Participating in the Rice Habitat for Humanity’s Centennial House Project this year was special for Gee.

As part of National Philanthropy Week, three events provided students with a chance to write thank-you notes to a donor who supports their experience at Rice. (Photo by Tommy LaVergne)

“It was special to me on several levels,” he said. “The gentleman spearheading the project attended the high school my daughters are attending now.

“But mostly, I can remember my mother having her first home after living in subsidized housing.”

Frost recalled working with families of seriously ill children staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

“I remember having a prom for the kids and I was chair of children’s activities,” she said. “I remember a father asking me to dance with his son because he didn’t know if he’d make it to his own prom.”

From donors to fundraisers

Gibbs recalled his first time volunteering to raise money for the Rice Annual Fund.

“It was like have the worst salesman ask people for money,” he said. “I remember looking down at the names on my call list and realizing how precious few had made past donations.”

While he might not be a natural salesman, Gibbs is passionate about his love for Rice. Igniting that passion in others is key to encouraging philanthropy, Woo said.

“The organizations that are easy to raise money for are the ones with a good story,” Woo said. “Rice is educating such a great population of young people that they are doing that, they are telling a good story.”

Planting seeds

National Philanthropy Week events have been an excellent way to start a dialog with current students on the importance of giving, said Frost. Three events this week provided students with a chance to write thank-you notes to a donor who supports their experience at Rice.

“I think that’s great because when students transfer into young alumni, they will have that mindset to give,” Frost said. “Any donation counts, and when you look at all of those of us who benefited from the annual fund, how can you not give?”

“It is important to plant that seed while students are still here,” Gee said. “You have to start young if you want to see it bear fruit in a reasonable amount of time.“

 

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.