Alumni Pay the Challenge Forward

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Donna Mitchell
Donna Mitchell

A playful graphic with golden keys graced the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’ social media account last year to encourage the unlocking of a Giving Day challenge grant by Jerry Hulick, a 1973 graduate in political science.

Designed by Charlotte Cannon, a junior double majoring in visual communication design and music performance, the illustration became a symbol of the many constituents who helped the college rank first in overall participation during Virginia Tech’s inaugural Giving Day.

This year, several alumni and friends are fueling new incentives to inspire others to contribute during the 24-hour event.

“Sometimes we all need a little extra kick in the pants,” said Donna Mitchell, a Virginia Tech alumna who is offering the college’s largest challenge this time around. “It helps to know others are committed to the university and they’re willing to step up and give back. Giving Day is a good incentive to remind us we need to do that as well.”

This year, Mitchell, a member of the Dean’s Roundtable, will follow Hulick’s lead by donating up to $10,000. She will contribute $1,000 for every 100 gifts to any College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences program.

The challenge grant, Mitchell said, is her way of giving back to the college that means so much to her.

“No one gets anywhere without some kind of help from others,” said Mitchell, who earned degrees in business management in 1983 and in English in 1984. “I got a lot of help, so I view it as my obligation and my pleasure to pay it forward.”

For Mitchell, a first vice president of Morgan Stanley in Roanoke, her time at the university provided her with an unexpected assist in the realm of leadership. As a member of the English Club, she found herself the de facto president of the organization.

“At the time that role stretched me beyond my comfort zone, but it helped me to grow and become more self-confident,” MItchell said. “It ended up being a really good experience. Virginia Tech also challenged me multiple times as a student. Although you don’t always appreciate it at the time, being challenged almost always leads to positive growth.”

Mitchell is not alone in offering challenges on behalf of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences during Giving Day.

Another donor with fondness for the Department of English is Timothy Menter, who also earned his English degree in 1984. Menter will donate $3,500 to the department if 100 other donors show their support for it.

If at least 25 donors make a gift to the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, Harold McNair will donate $1,500 in memory of his wife, Marijke McNair, who earned a degree in Spanish and French at Virginia Tech in 1978. McNair, a professor of chemistry emeritus, will also match every dollar donated to the department, up to $1,500.

For a second year, Rosemary Blieszner, dean of the college, is offering leaderboard incentives. She will donate $500 to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences department, school, or program with the most gifts received on Giving Day and $500 to the unit that raises the most dollars. In addition, she is providing $250 grants for second place for both donor participation and amount raised.

The Marching Virginians, who earned the top rank in both of last year’s dean’s challenges, need 200 donors to unlock James “Jay” Muscatello’s donation. When this happens, he will give $5,000 to the 330-member band. Muscatello earned his engineering degree in 1980.

To help unlock these challenge grants, visit the college’s Giving Day webpage. The event starts at noon Eastern Daylight Time on March 19 and goes until noon on March 20.

“Giving Day allows us to do more than raise funds for our programs,” Blieszner said. “It also enables us to inspire a broad appreciation of the power of philanthropy to strengthen our college and all it offers our students, our community, and the world.”

Written by Leslie King