Guest Opinion: PHIL's Day and Why We Give


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Giving is a surprisingly complex notion. Why we give is the subject of numerous Ph.D. dissertations in psychology and the social sciences. Certainly one reason we give is because it feels good. It is also a way we can show our appreciation for a person or institution that means a lot to us. To deprive us of this opportunity would take away that outlet to feel good. And so, we celebrate philanthropy through Phil’s Day.

Philanthropy at the UI is shown by alumni, faculty, staff, and patrons who fondly remember, and deeply appreciate, what the university has done for them. During their time at the UI, whether past or present, they may have acquired the skills for a successful career or put those skills to work, met their spouse, or appreciated the chance to excel in sport, academic, or creative endeavors. For many, their time at the UI is truly a life-altering experience — people grow and become better here as a result of their scholarly pursuits, as well as extracurricular involvement. When and where else in your life can you devote almost all your time to growth and learning, just thinking and becoming?

You don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist.  Often the people who have the least income give the most, proportionately, of what they have — and I think this is because those who do not have much are frequently the most compassionate and grateful for what they do have. In the words of the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who wrote The Road Less Traveled, “A grateful heart is a gift from God.”

Yet, I can also cite several examples of those who have given millions to the UI, and sometimes it has been virtually their entire life savings. The sum total of all this philanthropy allows the university to support student scholarships, faculty, and infrastructure improvements that might not be possible at a time when state appropriations (as a portion of the general-education fund) are falling.

I am excited to co-chair the “We Are Phil” campaign because it is all about participation. We are trying to raise awareness so that more people who work at the UI will understand how important philanthropy (“Phil”) is at the university — and that they might give back, even a little bit, and feel good about it. There are so many good things for which one can donate money.  This is one of them.  Lives are changed here every day. 

Jerry Schnoor
We Are Phil co-head
Professor and Allen S. Henry Chair
UI College of Engineering

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