Laurie Burns McRobbie

"Women Helping Women: Honoring Student Volunteer Leadership"

Learn about IU Kokomo’s inaugural Women in Philanthropy awards. View photos from the event and from the First Lady’s tour of IU Kokomo.

Thank you, Penny. It’s been too long since my last trip to the Kokomo campus, and I’m delighted to be here for the very first Women Helping Women Luncheon. I want to start by thanking Chancellor Harris, IU Kokomo First Lady Tali Harris, and Vice Chancellor Lee for hosting our luncheon today. You’ve been wonderful partners in getting this event organized, and in everything else you do for IU Kokomo.

I’d also like to welcome Trustee MaryEllen Bishop and IUAA National Chair–elect Nancy Hamblin. And of course, I want to recognize and congratulate our three student recipients of the Student Volunteer Leadership award: Hollie Boyles, Stacy James, and Kristianna Upchurch.

My remarks today will focus on philanthropy and all that it means, for women and for Indiana University. So it’s entirely in keeping with this theme that I also recognize the recent gift by Milt and Jean Cole and their family in support of the campus Wellness and Fitness Center. Their daughter–in–law Carmella Cole is with us today, and I’d like her to stand to receive our thanks for her family’s generosity.

In 1867, Sarah Parke Morrison enrolled at Indiana University, the first female student to attend IU, and her enrollment made IU one of the first public institutions of higher education in the country to admit women. Six years later, in 1873, Sarah made history again by becoming the first female faculty member, albeit in an adjunct capacity, and in 1883, she donated $5 to Indiana University to help restore the library after a devastating fire, a gift that made her the university’s first female donor.

Philanthropy at IU thus has a very long history, for alumni and alumnae. In keeping with national trends in philanthropy, giving to Indiana University greatly accelerated in the years following the end of the First World War, and all of us here were born into a time when the philanthropic spirit was alive and well, as it continues to be today.

As some of you may know, last year IU led all public institutions of higher education in voluntary contributions of nearly $300 million, focused on increased scholarship support, endowed chairs and faculty positions, expanded programs, and beautiful buildings, some sporting new names, to house all the fruits of this generosity. It is simply a fact that Indiana University could not do what it does as well as it does, nor in some cases do anything at all, if not for the philanthropic support of alumni and friends.

My husband, who as you know was born in Australia and came to this country as an adult, likes to point to this love of one’s alma mater, expressed through philanthropic giving, as a uniquely American phenomenon. And indeed we see that this is true every time we go overseas and find ourselves in conversations with representatives from colleges and universities who ask us how we make this outpouring of private support happen. The answer is certainly complex, and I want to touch on two reasons for it.

One is the great tradition of volunteerism and association–building in the U.S. It’s especially appropriate to focus on this in the context of who we’re celebrating today, young women leaders in volunteerism, because this tradition is also deeply embedded in the history of women in the U.S. Going back to Colonial times, women have found an outlet for their otherwise untapped intellectual and organizational capacities in charitable work. Well into the 20th century, cut off from the worlds of business and politics, women used voluntary associations to exercise public influence and to shape American concepts of community responsibility.

It is not a stretch to say women created the nonprofit sector as we understand it today, primarily through their voluntary efforts. Women have always been engaged in movements for progress, and particularly so in education. To me, this work is at the heart of what it means to be philanthropic, in the broader society as well as in higher education. We celebrate the giving of treasure, but we also celebrate the giving of time. Our three young women are thus continuing a cherished tradition and deserve the accolades we give them in recognition.

A second reason for why U.S. higher education is so successful at capturing philanthropic giving is that we have devoted considerable effort to it. We have developed practices and approaches that seek to understand the nature of voluntary gifts and the connections that alumni have across the institution and with each other, and we have done this over a long period of time.

I am happy to say that responding to the phenomenon of women’s giving is part of the work of the IU Foundation. It was not always this way; despite the presence of women’s gifts down through the years, through most of the last century the work of the IU Foundation and development offices across the university was largely focused on men. Of course, that’s who had, and who still has, most of the money, and IU was no different than any other organization in thinking mainly about male patterns of giving. And certainly an enormous amount of good came from this. But in the last decade or so, it began to be apparent to scholars of philanthropy (the best of whom are here at IU, as we know, at the Center on Philanthropy) that women were becoming a force in voluntary giving in new, more visible ways. Some of this has to do with demographics – members of the baby boom generation are now in their peak earning years and getting ready to retire, and women, who now as then are likely to inherit twice, from parents and from spouses, also now have their own earnings from having entered the workforce in record numbers in the 1970s and 1980s.

But a lot of it has to do with HOW women are choosing to give. Women are more likely to spread their gifts over a greater number of organizations and causes than do men. Women are more likely to give anonymously. And women tend to gravitate towards collective forms of giving, to do it as a group. These behaviors mask the fact that once factors such as education, age, income, and others are taken into account, women give more than men, sometimes more than twice as much. Women are demonstrating a new–found assurance in their giving, to make sure their gifts help create change, push forward important causes, and make a difference to their communities. We’re learning more every day about the ways in which women give. And we’re figuring out, with good success, how to organize ourselves to be more closely engaged with our alumnae and responding to how they want to be engaged with IU.

Two years ago, the IU Foundation created a program in Women’s Philanthropy, with my colleague Holly Johnson as its director. Together with several other alumnae and friends of women’s philanthropy, we founded the Women’s Philanthropy Council, which is just coming up on the end of its second year. The Council is comprised of 34 women and two men who also care about deepening the Foundation’s commitment to women alums and donors and moving into new programmatic areas that recognize and foster women’s engagement with Indiana University. This luncheon is the first instance of one of these new programs, and is the brainchild of one of our founding members, Janet Smith.

We are also working on a variety of other programs, which include the Colloquium for Women in Bloomington and a shorter Colloquium in Ft. Wayne, a biennial conference in Indianapolis, and a grants program that distributes money from a fund set up by the WPC to new and innovative activities on all eight campuses of IU. Just this March, we announced eight recipients of the inaugural round of grants, one of which is at IU Kokomo, called “Science Rocks! IU Kokomo Science Summer Camp for Under–represented Middle–School Students”. It met all of our criteria for addressing areas that are crucial to the future and represent exciting new approaches to resolving complex problems. You can get more information on the WPC and women’s philanthropy on our Facebook page.

In conclusion, I again want to thank Chancellor Harris and Tali Harris, and Vice Chancellor Lee for their steadfast commitment to creating an even better future for IU Kokomo and the state of Indiana, and congratulate again our wonderful volunteer leaders for their exceptional philanthropy.

I’d like to invite Vice Chancellor Lee back to the podium. Thank you!