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religion don’t make for good luncheon conversations
among strangers. I knew the political perspective of a
supporter to an institution who was sitting across the
table from me at a recent luncheon. We heard a vice
president of the university in a rather animated political commentary. I wondered how the supporter felt
when the university vice president opined political
views diametrically opposed to the donor’s . . . so, I
changed the subject.
There are numerous stories where faculty, staff, and
administrations get crossways with its donor base. This
is nothing new in higher education, but the public discourse has changed.
Interestingly enough, the University of Alabama
recently returned a $21 million gift to a donor who was
inserting himself into the operations of the School of
Law where he’d directed his gift. The donor wanted the
university to protest a law passed by the Alabama legislature. The university correctly determined that it is not
its mission to weigh in on the legislature’s voting habits.
That is actually the role of the courts. Furthermore, a
contributor doesn’t “buy” the right to immerse themselves into the operations of the institution.
By contrast, I am reminded of the Dartmouth case
when a donor gave $5 million to endow an American
J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 9
history chair. Dartmouth accepted the gift on his conditions, but abjectly failed to abide by them. The donor
sued Dartmouth for his donation, and the court agreed
that Dartmouth breached its agreement. The college was
forced to return the gift.
Few of us ever want to get into a public squabble
with a donor over the use of their philanthropy.
Returning a $5 million or a $21 million gift is not
healthy for fundraising, and it certainly may have a ripple effect on the public’s perception of the university.
In an earlier era, we could agree that we disagree on
an issue. Some of my best friends have vastly different
political views than I do. However, we’re still close
friends. Today, with 24-7 cable news and on-line political blogs, it seems that those who yell the loudest are
the only ones who get heard.
Donors who give large contributions rarely give
them unfettered. There are usually some strings
attached. Part of the job of the institution’s president
and the vice president of advancement is to make sure
that the expectations of the donor, and the ability to
accept a gift with ethical and legal restrictions, are
indeed copacetic.
Wesley Wicker, Ed.D. is a principal and partner of Columns Fundraising and
a graduate of the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia.
his issue of James is about education. I was fortunate to get a
pretty good one— education that
is— so I’m gonna’ talk about mine.
If you read this, you can compare
yours (circumstances, schools, etc.),
and see how it compares. Let me start
with the word “read” and read in general. I think “read” is very important. I didn’t write the most important, but fundamentally important.
My mother, I call her “mama,” is 99
years old and she says she’s going to
make 100. She has eight months to go,
and I’d bet on her. In any event, mama tells
me the rst word I ever said was read. She says I’d get
the funny papers (comics) from the Sunday paper, drag it
over to daddy and say “read, read.” He’d take me into his
lap and read! Reading was important in our little yellow
house. I was off to a great start. I liked reading and do to
this day. It is one of the big things in my life.
In the rst grade (1947-1948) I had Miss Frances
Couey (she never married) and she taught me to read
very good (or well?). If I didn’t perform to her satisfaction, she’d pop me lightly on the top of my little head
with a Number 2 wooden lead pencil. Miss Couey was
an important person in my life and I owe much to her.
I’ll never forget her.
In the 12th grade, I had Florence Harrison. She earlier taught Sam Nunn, later to become a U.S. senator. If
you know Sam, ask him about Mrs. Harrison. You’ll
need 15 or 20 minutes to listen to him extoll her virtues.
And that’ll be his abbreviated version.
I call Frances Couey and Florence Harrison my “bookend teachers.” Two great ones, I’d say! They, and other
teachers, made the Perry public schools really good.
Education in Georgia has improved since I started in
the rst grade. Gov. Joe Frank Harris’ Quality Basic
Education Act was important in approving Georgia’s
education. Gov. Zell Miller’s HOPE Scholarship was
probably the most important, most impactful legislation
passed during my 32 years in the General Assembly. But
neither of these great pieces of legislation would have amounted to much
without teachers teaching students to
read well, understand what they were
reading and loving to read!
Now, I get on my soap box.
Please bear with me, hear me out or
knock me off my box. Your choice.
It’s about work— hard work, responsible work and required work while
young. Thanks to fast food establishments for these opportunities, there
is no better teacher and example than
Chick-fil-A. Yet these opportunities are
just for a limited number. continued on 50
J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 1 9


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