The UConn Women and Philanthropy program launched its initiative for 100 women to each give $100,000 or more in 2020 to expand its support of UConn’s strategic initiatives and celebrate female philanthropists making transformative gifts to the University.
To date, the campaign, which completed its first year on June 30, has celebrated 20 women whose collective contributions to UConn total more than $6.9 million.
Gayle Russell ’88 MBA, ’95 Ph.D. was recognized for her support of the School of Business Scholarship Fund. Russell, a financial advisor, says that women have the power to make a significant impact through philanthropy—but many don’t realize their potential to do so.
The 100 Women campaign, she says, amplifies and leverages the power of women’s philanthropy at UConn, which is important because by highlighting female donors, it helps other women realize that they, too, can make a difference.
“I want to inspire other women to realize the power they have with their money and know that they can use their money for good,” Russell explains. “My legacy giving is focused on education because I know what a game changer it is, especially for women. I know what a difference education made for me and can make for others.”
And it’s not just about the dollar amount. “I wish everyone would realize that the amount of giving is not what is crucial but that if we all give what we can, the cumulative amount can make a profound difference,” she says.
Paula Singer ’76 (ED), a lifelong educator, agrees and adds that while it is great that an increasing number of women are giving back, many have been conditioned to give anonymously.
“I used to give anonymously myself,” says Singer, who established the Paula Riggi Singer Endowed Scholarship Fund to support undergraduates in the Neag School of Education. “The problem with giving anonymously is that you are not leading, not modeling the behavior.”
The 100 Women initiative, Singer says, helps women to model their philanthropic efforts and encourage and empower others to do the same.
“My UConn experience changed my life and gave me the foundation and tools I needed to go wherever my life took me,” she says. “It’s a great feeling to be able to share that success with the next generation—and, by modeling that behavior, to encourage others to join you at whatever level they can.”
Nell Jessup Newton is not an alumna, but she feels a passion for UConn and a desire to support the school she called home when she served as dean of the School of Law from 2000 to 2006.
“You don’t need to go to a school to fall in love with it,” Newton says. “I was privileged to serve as dean of the School of Law, and I have maintained a strong tie with the school since then.”
While dean, Newton established The Nell Jessup Newton Scholarship to provide scholarship assistance to a law student. She continues to contribute to this fund and says that her estate plan will also increase the amount of the scholarship—benefiting UConn law students for generations to come.
“The School of Law has attracted superb faculty and a strong and committed staff,” she says. “I am proud to be associated with UConn School of Law and hope to remain so for many years.”
Newton says that women are often overlooked when it comes to giving, and the 100 Women campaign helps bring attention to the fact that women are also decision-makers when it comes to philanthropy.
“Women are frequently the influencers behind their family’s philanthropy,” she says. “They have the power to make substantial contributions.”
“When women can give, they do,” says Melinda Brown ’77 (BUS), ’85 MBA, chair of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors. Brown’s support for UConn includes generous contributions to Women in Business which supports professional development opportunities and scholarships for female business students.
“UConn women not only win on the basketball court, we also win at the professional tables we now have a seat at,” she says. “And because we win, we can and do support philanthropy.”