Campus & Community

Dedicated seniors see value in giving back

3 min read

As vice chairs of the Harvard College Fund’s Recent Graduates Committee, Eryn Ament Bingle ’95 and Thomas M. Reardon Jr. ’96, M.B.A. ’05 couldn’t help focusing on a nagging fundraising statistic: 60 to 70 percent of Harvard seniors give to a Senior Gift fund before graduation, but fewer than 20 percent of those same students make any gift to their college one year later.

“We wanted to know what changed,” says Bingle, adding that some institutions measure the happiness of young alumni based on how many give back — not how much they give — to their schools. “We decided that recent graduates needed to be well educated about charitable giving in general and fundraising for Harvard in particular,” she says.

Enter the 1636 Society Challenge, a new effort led by Bingle and Reardon along with Recent Graduates Committee members Kate Earls ’00, Abhishek Gupta ’04, and Patricia Raciti ’06. The challenge gives seniors the opportunity to set up a recurring gift and receive a $50 match to their Senior Gift. To date, 10 percent of the class has leveraged the impact of Senior Gift with the 1636 Society Challenge.

“It’s important to acknowledge the positive influence that four fantastic years at Harvard has on our daily lives,” explains Reardon. “I love working with the senior class because of their enthusiasm. They get really excited to make a contribution.”

Marvin J. Cine ’08, Amy B. Diaz ’08, and Peter C. Krause Jr. ’08, Class of 2008 Senior Gift co-chairs, along with 180 of their fellow classmates-turned-volunteers exemplify this enthusiasm. As of May 20, they have succeeded in motivating 62 percent of their class to contribute to the Senior Gift effort. Gifts can be made in recognition of another individual such as a parent or professor and may be directed to an unrestricted fund, a financial aid fund for future undergraduates, or the Dean’s Fund for the Undergraduate Experience, which supports places and activities such as the Cambridge Queen’s Head pub in Loker Commons, the Malkin Athletic Center, the New College Theatre, or study abroad.

“I have been supported completely at Harvard as the result of the financial aid initiative, and I consider it both an honor and a duty to give back,” says Rachel M. Berkey ’08, an Adams House volunteer. “Financial aid has created more diversity and perspective among Harvard students, and the announcement of the new, expanded financial aid initiative provides for everyone, but particularly those contributing this year. We have the opportunity to stand by that initiative—to express that we think this is the right and necessary thing for Harvard to do and we will support it.”

This year, Adams House achieved the second-highest House participation in Senior Gift campaign history — 97.2 percent participation — and won the annual, six-week House competition. In addition to bragging rights and recognition on Class Day, seniors of Adams House will decorate the senior booth in the Queen’s Head pub with House photos and memorabilia and be the House added to a plaque of past winners.

For Natasia A. de Silva ’08, a gift to Harvard, no matter how small, is a legacy for the future. “A lot of people wonder why I choose to volunteer for Harvard,” says de Silva, who is the participation chair for Mather House. “To me, volunteering at Harvard is about making this prestigious university an even better place for the students who come after me.”