Capitalizing on Success
by Barbara Snyder Stambaugh
September 1, 2006
This is a story about the college and its capital campaign. But the best place to start, improbably enough, is with Dilbert.
Scott Adams, creator of that satirical cartoon, once said that every act of kindness creates a ripple with no logical end.
Where that quote intersects with Dickinson's just-launched capital campaign is in the hearts and minds of George and Jennifer Ward Reynolds '77, whose passion for the college and for supporting student scholarships has inspired them to sign on as campaign co-chairs.
Jennifer, a partner in her family's commercial real-estate firm and college trustee, says, “There's a compelling story here, and a thousand ways to tell it.
“Dickinson 's time is now,” she says, referring to the college's leadership and outstanding fiscal policy. “The college is functioning on all cylinders. The academics have always been there. But we used to lament that Dickinson 's reputation never caught up to its reality. You'd say ‘Dickinson,' and the response would be, ‘Where's that?'
“It takes time to fix that,” Jennifer continues. “It takes time for the story to get out, but it's happening in a big way. It's an exciting time. I've been on a lot of boards—but nothing like this one. This leadership is intellectually engaged. There is no dominant ego—it's a great give and take. And the college has come incredibly far.”
Now Dickinson is taking the next step. This month marks the public launch of the college's First in America: Fulfilling our Destiny capital campaign, reflecting the college's recommitment to its historic mission, born out of the American Revolution, to educate citizen leaders to build and lead a new nation.
To support that vision, Dickinson's capital campaign has four transformational goals: the creation of new endowed scholarships; the addition of new endowed faculty chairs; a 21st-century interdisciplinary science complex; and the growth of Dickinson's all-important annual fund, which subsidizes everything from arts and athletics to faculty research and academic programming. The campaign's gala kickoff event was just held on Oct. 7 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia . (See the winter issue of Dickinson Magazine.)
“Now more than ever, our world needs globally educated leaders,” Jennifer says. “Dickinson's foundation and vision put the college on the forefront of educating those leaders, so every aspect of this campaign is critical—and everyone will find their special niche to support. For George and me, it's scholarships that touch our hearts. There are so many students with great potential who don't have opportunities.”
She remembers, for example, the donor-scholar luncheon George and she attended at Dickinson a few years ago. It's an event where those who contribute scholarship funds to the college meet the students and young alumni who have benefited from those gifts. Jennifer and George have endowed the R. Walter and Beatrice L. Ward Scholarship, named for Jennifer's parents.
“A young man named Matt Fahnestock '02 spoke to the group,” Jennifer says. “He's a teacher in the Carlisle schools. He told us, ‘You didn't know me, but you invested in me. And now I'm touching these lives.' It was a moment for him, and for all of us, to acknowledge that we have been done a kindness. The full cost of a Dickinson education has never been covered by tuition alone. Not when I attended, and not now. There was always someone who went before, helping us to get where we are.”
Jennifer says a part of why she feels a responsibility to support scholarships at Dickinson is rooted in her parents' strong beliefs. As a young man, her father couldn't afford college, but he paid for all of his siblings to go, and then his children and grandchildren, too.
“He managed to achieve the American dream through intelligence and hard work,” Jennifer says. “And he knew the value of education, so he made sure his family members had those opportunities.”
George, a Baltimore trusts and estates attorney and graduate of Wesleyan University (though he was made an honorary alumnus by President William G. Durden '71 in 2004), says that the donor-scholar luncheon Jennifer and he attended became a family affair because they each brought their mothers along.
“My mother is 86 and very sharp,” George says. “She was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania when she was young, but because of the Depression, she couldn't afford to go. Hearing those Dickinson scholarship recipients talk was so inspiring that by the time we left the luncheon, she wanted to give to the fund.”
George's commitment to Dickinson—in time and resources—is remarkable, especially since he graduated from another college.
“Dickinson has the same feel as Wesleyan,” George says, drawing parallels between the two historic, liberal-arts institutions. “I also support my alma mater, but Dickinson has become very special to me. I'm a great believer in what the college is doing.”
Jennifer's involvement with the college runs deep. She laughingly says that her experience as a student “1,000 years ago” was good grounding. She tutored the children of Vietnamese refugees, and she was a member of a service-oriented group called, as though foretelling her own Dickinson destiny, the Friends of Benjamin Rush.
Jennifer went through many career considerations as a student, but it was a summer internship that she conceived that landed her in economics. She had read the 1973 Ralph Nader-led task-force report on First National City Bank, which included a not-so-favorable take on trust departments. It made her want to see for herself and launched her career in finance.
“I got my C.F.A. and M.B.A. later, but I'm so glad I didn't go to a big university for my undergraduate education. At Dickinson, I was challenged to write, speak and think—in a range of disciplines—all skills I needed to succeed.”
As an alumna, Jennifer has served in every capacity from host, with George, of receptions in their home for newly accepted students, to member of her class reunion committees, to her most demanding role to date: Dickinson trustee. With her 25 years of experience in investment management, she's a member of the board's investment committee. These leadership positions have enabled her to closely examine Dickinson 's administrative acumen and have cemented the confidence she holds in her alma mater.
In fact, Jennifer says, on the list of the many causes that she and George care about and support, Dickinson is at the top. “To paraphrase the words of former trustee Larry Kent, this campaign isn't about being able to say of your support, ‘It's the least I could do.' Instead, we need to talk about what is the most you can do. If ever time, need and potential were perfectly aligned—this is it.”
Jennifer admits to having a very competitive streak, so it bothers her that Dickinson sometimes isn't granted its due.
“But that's not what is most important. When you hear our students talk about their scholarships, or professors talk passionately about their teaching, or the research they conduct with students, or the great strides that will be taken with the new science complex—then all of it hits home.”
George agrees, saying, “Now's the time. This is Dickinson 's transformational moment.”