A few months back, I found an entry on my calendar, “Greet and Thank Professor……..” Because the meeting was set up just for him, I was a little intrigued and was curious to know which noteworthy act of teaching or research the professor had achieved. So, I opened the attached note that said, “…for $1.5 million gift to establish an endowed chair.”
My immediate reaction was “Wow.” That is a significant gift and it is coming from a current faculty member! I read the professor’s name again. No, I could not recall the name from any of my conversations with the development staff. And no, he was not from a discipline where an invention or a start-up company could have been the possible source of his fortune. My curiosity remained.
At the scheduled time, I walked in the board room and there he was…an unassuming man with a totally down-to-earth attitude. He appeared uncomfortable in tie, as if he had put it on just for the meeting. We shook hands and I thanked him sincerely for his generous gift. Then I proceeded to inquire about the reason behind his generosity.
He responded very matter-of-factly, “I have worked at UH for over 30 years and have had the most wonderful time. Every morning, I have been waking up excited to come to work, to see my students, and to do whatever I can to make this a better place. It has been my home; it has been my life.”
We talked some more about the evolution of the University and all of the trials and tribulations it had gone through. During the span of 45 minutes or so, I noticed that he had never said one negative word about the university. He was extremely proud of it and very gratified to have been a part of it.
Explaining how he amassed this wealth, he said, “I am not a big spender and I don’t have any obligations so I want to give it to the place that brought so much joy to my life.” If you dissect his statement, it is clear that…
…He has been working hard for every dollar!
…He has not been splurging it on himself!
…He feels that the University had done more for him than he has done for the University even though he has devoted his entire life to teaching and research!
…He has no expectations for recognition!
Needless to say, the meeting made my day! In fact, it made my year! I have repeated his statement many, many times in my head.
Three months later, I saw his name again, and this time, it was in the context of a luncheon given in honor of the University of Houston 1927 Society. In that room were many faculty and staff who shared similar feelings, and who had made a planned gift to the place that had given them so much! Some were retired but many were current members of the faculty and staff. They had lived or were living in the trenches, having seen the best and the worst. Yet, their love for their workplace went beyond their daily frustrations and struggles. Like the faculty member, they all wanted to express their gratitude by securing the future of the university.
Even though, the professor expected no recognition, I am going to give you his name—Professor Robert Carp! On behalf of the future generation of students and faculty who will be the beneficiaries, I thank Professor Carp and the members of the 1927 Society for their generosity. You are indeed bigger than the institution!