Olin Alumni Board president Jim Gidcumb, EMBA’93, asks KaLeena Weaver Thomas, PMBA’12, why she donates time and treasure to their alma mater. Bottom line? “It’s an investment that’s going to pay back valuable dividends,” she says.
Jim: We’ve got a great view of the Danforth Campus from where we are today in the Sneider Family Tower Suite of the new Bauer Hall. Across Mudd Field, we can see Simon Hall that has just undergone major renovations. The new Knight Hall and Bauer Hall are spectacular spaces for collaboration and learning. Give me your impression about the structures and perhaps more importantly, what they mean to the future Olin experience.
KaLeena: The structures are incredibly symbolic of how important people and relationships and networks are in business. You know there’s so much education that’s going online today, it’s very one-sided, and you don’t have the opportunity to work with people. The benefit of Olin is so much of the relationships that you have while you’re here and after. And having these beautiful buildings to create that emotional connection with people and to foster an environment where you can learn, learn from the other students here and your professors. It’s so exciting to see the work that the legacy of so many donorshas had in building these beautiful buildings.
“The better that Olin is, the stronger that Olin is, it makes our school and our degrees much more recognizable worldwide. It’s an investment that’s going to pay back valuable dividends.”
Jim: Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University has been very successful to date, but we do need to raise an additional $97 million in the next three years to reach Olin’s goal. I’ve sponsored a scholarship for the past 10 years and have played a part in building campaigns. Tell me how you’ve participated.
KaLeena: I started making small donations—$25, $50—while I was still a student. I saw the value that Olin provided me while I was in the PMBA program, and how it positively impacted my career. When you can see that, it makes you want to give back. I’m an Eliot Society member now.
Jim: We have more than 21,000 alumni worldwide now and about 30 percent of them are donating to the school in some way, which is great. In fact, it’s an all-time high for the number of alumni donors, but it’s still a small percentage of the total.
KaLeena: I think even if you can start with a small amount, it’s really about giving back in some way, whether it’s your time or your treasure. That really impacts the students here and is going to impact all of us in the long run. The better that Olin is, the stronger that Olin is, it makes our school and our degrees much more recognizable worldwide. It’s an investment that’s going to pay back valuable dividends.
Jim Gidcumb is vice president, Wealth Management Advisor at Merrill Lynch in St. Louis and Olin Alumni Board President. KaLeena Weaver Thomas is senior executive director, Solution Integration and Acceleration, Ascension Health.
Read more alumni news in Olin Business Magazine.