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Seeds of Success

As Campaign Rockets Past Goal, Reflections on the Responsibility to Give Back

 

What is the nature of success? At George Mason University’s recent 2017 Celebration of Scholarships, nearly 240 attendees were asked to ponder this question. By evening’s end—accompanied by some unexpected good news—a nuanced and hopeful answer had emerged: about success itself, the power of philanthropy to nurture it, and the ability of each individual to help others succeed.

Dr. Janet Bingham, vice president for advancement and alumni relations as well as president of the George Mason University Foundation, welcomed guests with the reminder that all present were stakeholders in the enterprise of student accomplishment. “There are three things I notice about those gathered here,” she observed. “You are successful, you are generous—and you are connected to a lot of fortunate and deserving students, some of whom are here now. My mother had a saying: ‘Plant your seeds before you’re hungry.’ You're doing that through your gifts to Mason, looking far into the future, saving lives and changing the world through your generosity.”

Dr. Oscar Barton, chair of mechanical engineering at the Volgenau School, served as emcee for the event, held Thursday, March 30 at the Westwood Country Club in Vienna. After speaking about the role scholarships had played in his own education, Barton introduced two current scholarship recipients—Lea Lines (BSN 2017) and Samara Singer (BA 2018)—who shared moving stories of overcoming obstacles and setbacks in the pursuit of a Mason education. Two undergraduates who are Friends of Music Scholarship recipients, Francesca Savoia (BM 2017) and Dawn Meltzer (BM 2018), provided a beautiful musical interlude on flute and harp.

GMU 2017 Scholarship Dinner

View a photo gallery from the event.

The importance of private philanthropy at Mason was emphasized by Kevin Reynolds, President and Director of Sales at Cardinal Bank, which has established a $250,000 scholarship endowment for Early Identification Program students. Reynolds encouraged prospective donors to keep in mind “the power of one”: the idea that even small investments in the success of others can have a profound and increasing influence over time.

Carol Daniel Kasbari, a PhD candidate and scholarship recipient from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), reinforced the point by describing the profound global impact donors can make by supporting students committed to bringing peace to conflict-ridden areas. “Your support helps create the next generation of peace builders,” she said, describing S-CAR’s efforts to interrupt ongoing cycles of violence.

In concluding remarks, President Ángel Cabrera asked Faster Farther campaign chair Jimmy Hazel to share some exciting news: that the campaign has now met, and will definitely exceed, its original $500 million goal. The announcement helped President Cabrera make a strong case for why scholarships—as “seeds of success”—not only can but must be planted. “Everyone who is here in the category of ‘successful’ and ‘generous,’ as Janet said, was at one point also in the category of ‘darn lucky,’” said Cabrera. “All of them know, and all of you know, that the true measure of success is a willingness to invest in the success of others.”

“A willingness to invest in the success of others” is a textbook definition of philanthropy. It is also a seed that can grow mightily over time when others choose to contribute: a helpful reminder that, as Mason goes faster farther, everyone can help to plant the seeds of student success.

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April 5, 2017 / LH