News

Forum

Illustration by Maria Fabrizio

Betty and I grew up in generous families. Neither of them was a wealthy family, mind you, but through their example, we learned that giving is a natural and expected response to whatever measure of prosperity — no matter how modest — had come our way. Generosity has continued to be an important component of our life together. Generosity is also the foundation on which this wonderful university has been built.

No one can refute that the university’s tradition of giving is deeply embedded in our history. Each generation of Spiders enthusiastically gives its time, expertise, and diverse perspectives to advance the university’s mission.

And yes, each generation also gives financial resources — often in tribute to the past, but always to ensure Richmond’s success for students here today and in perpetuity.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Robins family made a historic gift that forever changed the trajectory of the University of Richmond. Its landmark $50 million investment in Richmond’s future came with a critically important string attached: The university would receive this gift only if it could be helpful inspiring others to give. The family’s message was clear: The strongest path for the university’s future is the one we walk together.

And give you have. Jepson, Wiltshire, Weinstein, Queally, Lain, Ukrop, Gottwald, Mahfuz.

Several of these names are readily recognizable to our community, adorned on a pioneering leadership school, a grand international education venue, and dazzling student recruitment and career services facilities. Their vision brought forth a vibrant business school hub and a cutting-edge science center.

But what of the less familiar names in this impressive list? Their giving is no less inspired or important. Suzanne Prillman Wiltshire, W’58 and G’67, has been giving to her beloved Westhampton College for more years than our electronic records go back. Corinna Barrett Lain, a faculty member since 2001, has given to the law school for 18 years because she sees the living embodiment of Richmond’s mission every day in the faces of her students in her classes. Mohammed Mahfuz, ’14, graduated just four years ago but began giving right after graduation and has not missed a year since.

Their investment in the university comes from the same wellspring of hope and confidence that motivated the Robins family. This is the reason that, when we recently launched a new society to recognize the university’s most loyal donors, we called it the Robins Society. This membership community celebrates Spiders who make a gift over an unbroken string of years at any amount. These alumni walk the same pathway as the Robins family because they too believe in the value of Richmond’s promise for future generations.

And so I hope that with your help, membership in the Robins Society will grow. In the near term, we aspire to increase our annual giving rate to 25 percent, a number closer to our national peers, and then to even higher rates in the future. If we do so, we can add alumni giving to the list that includes close faculty-student relationships, a transformative student life experience, life-changing financial aid such as Richmond's Promise to Virginia, the Richmond Guarantee, and much more — the qualities that elevate and distinguish the University of Richmond in higher education.

After all, that was the profound vision behind the Robins gift — that every Spider could stake a claim to helping the university become, in E. Claiborne Robins’ own words, the “finest small private university in the nation.” Through this shared aspiration, and with the help of this generation of Spiders, we will ensure, together, that the university and its mission endure for generations to come.