Why We Give
Sarah Lawrence is a place of connections—between students and faculty, ideas and coursework, theory and practice. For many, these are lifelong connections that translate into a lifelong relationship with the College and annual gifts of support.
There are many reasons for wanting to help support a Sarah Lawrence education for future generations. We've collected a few of these stories.
Laurie Conroy ’01 (Associate)
On Becoming Fearless
Rather than marking the conclusion of her studies, graduation became the beginning for Laurie Conroy ’01. “What I learned at Sarah Lawrence,” she says, “is something I continue to use every day. The college took someone like myself, who was very insecure back then, and turned out a fearless woman.” Since her graduation, she and her husband Brian, a chief operating officer for a Manhattan hedge fund, have adopted three children from Guatemala – two daughters, Ingrid, 6 and Virginia, 4, and a son Paden, 3.
“At Sarah Lawrence, I learned to put trepidation aside and forge ahead,” recalls Laurie, who was in her early 30s when she graduated and now focuses her full-time energies on being a mother. “College came at the perfect time in my life.”
She began giving as an Associate shortly after graduation, because, as she says, “When you receive so much, you shouldn’t wait to give back.”
Andrea R. Fox ’77 (Associate)
On gaining perspective
A liberal arts degree wasn’t a requirement for Andrea R. Fox ’77, who was off to medical school when she graduated from Sarah Lawrence. But coming from an atypical pre-med background, she explains looking back, “gave me a very different – and valuable – perspective on my profession.”
“Being able to participate in the dance program, taking creative writing classes with June Jordan and Grace Paley, and discussing medical ethics with Ivan Nagy encouraged me to see the link between the humanities and medicine,” explains Andrea, now an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. “As a result, I have continued to make unusual career choices, from doing a residency in social medicine to going into geriatric medicine and making house calls and community work a focus of my career.”
The compassionate geriatrician has been giving to SLC since she began earning money, becoming an Associate, she says, “as soon as I could.”
Donald Miller '75 and Lauren Radovsky Miller '76 (Associates)
On three generations at SLC
"100% Sarah Lawrence!" reads the caption of a photo in the Miller family album, which shows Donald Miller '75 and Lauren Radovsky Miller '76 on the lawn in front of Westlands at her 10th reunion in 1986. With them in the photo were their daughter and future SLC student Carolyn '08, who was just four months old at the time; Donald's mother, Claire Strauss Miller '36, who was attending her 50th reunion; and Donald's sister, Sheila Miller Bernson '71, who was attending her 15th reunion.
It's still 100% percent Sarah Lawrence for Donald, a family practitioner in Andover, Mass., and Lauren, a community volunteer. "We decided a long time ago that our commitment to Sarah Lawrence would be life long," she says. "Sarah Lawrence is a small school with a relatively small endowment, and if it is to continue to provide the kind of education we received there, it needs the consistent support of people who actively care about this unique and special college."
Or as Donald explains their annual gift, "It offers me an opportunity to give back even a tiny bit of the priceless gifts that my family and I have been given by a Sarah Lawrence education."
Mira J. Spektor '50 (Associate)
On overcoming stage fright
Mira J. Spektor '50 still remembers how she first conquered stage fright, as a student singing at the President's House. She and then-President Harold Taylor's two pets, a Yorkshire terrier and an English sheepdog, became fast friends during that Christmas holiday performance, with the tiny Yorky watching out for his new pal from a stakeout under the piano she was playing. Mira, who went on to become a professional performer, has experienced other bouts of stage fright over the years, but she's never forgotten the lesson learned that day: how to focus on good friends close to you, and not imaginary dangers in the balcony!
That was one of many things she learned at Sarah Lawrence, says Mira, who went on to become a writer of songs, poems and music for theater, film and TV. She became an Associate when her daughter Charline also chose the college, and says: "I can't imagine not giving. It makes me still feel part of SLC."
Trustee David Dull and Susan Shieldkret (parents of Katy Dull ’07)
On building community
While their daughter Katy Dull '07 was enrolled at SLC, Trustee David Dull and Susan Shieldkret would often ask Katy and her fellow Sarah Lawrence students, "What would make your college experience even better?"
As co-chairs of the newly formed Sarah Lawrence Parents Advisory Council (PAC)—a committed group of current and past parents—Dull and Shieldkret had added incentive to turn the students' wish list into reality. From their own involvement with the College, they knew that the probability of turning ideas into action was high.
"There's a real can-do attitude at Sarah Lawrence," Dull explains. "Every dollar given is well spent. It's such a rich educational environment."
Responding to a need for more community-building activities on campus, Dull and Shieldkret made the initial gift to establish the Student Engagement Fund in 2007, a PAC-led initiative to engage the student body in new and creative ways. Their grant had two purposes: to enhance the quality of student life and to serve as a matching gift challenge to other parents.
The incentive worked. Almost instantly, the fund achieved success, reaching its goal of $150,000 in less than four months. Such a response shows that parents have a strong interest in and commitment to bettering the college experience for Sarah Lawrence students, especially when their own children can benefit immediately from concerts, academic symposia, and campus-wide festivals.
"It's a wonderful feeling—to have an idea and know that the time and effort invested to make that idea happen will create a real difference," Dull says. "There are so many worthy causes, but for us, this is one of paramount importance."
Looking back now on their first visit to campus with Katy, Dull and Sheildkret recall how impressed they were by Sarah Lawrence. "We were just captivated by the place—there's so much going on academically," says Dull. "I can't think of another place where you get more bang for your buck."
Shieldkret echoes this early impression of the College. "From the start, we were taken with the aura, meaning, and pedagogy of Sarah Lawrence," she says. "It was a natural progression for us to ask the College, 'What can we do for you?'"
Since then, their appreciation for the College has only become more profound. Now that Katy has graduated, Dull and Shieldkret say they see no reason why their allegiance to and involvement with the College should end.
Naomi Stearns ’58 (FSL Scholarship Program)
On the joy of connecting
Since graduating from Sarah Lawrence, Reunion Committee member Naomi Stearns '58 has kept in touch with a number of her fellow alums, and delighted in seeing them again at her 50th reunion.
"Reconnecting with classmates is a happy reminder of all the things I loved about being a student at Sarah Lawrence," she says. "It's so easy to pick up right where we left off."
Stearns chose to mark this special celebration with a gift to the FSL Scholars Program. This Fund for Sarah Lawrence initiative offers a personal and direct way to support current students. "Sarah Lawrence offers such a unique educational experience," Stearns says. "As alums, we really need to do what we can to make sure that tradition continues and is accessible to deserving students."
With a minimum gift of $5,000, a donor to the FSL Scholars Program is connected with a student receiving financial aid and is provided a "snapshot" profile of that student. Donors also have the opportunity to meet FSL scholarship students at a special reception on campus.
Although this was Stearns' first involvement with the scholars program, she has been a longtime supporter of the College, specifically through the Fund for Sarah Lawrence. Her motivation for giving can be traced back to her first year on campus, when she discovered the wealth of academic and cultural opportunities available to students. "Coming from a small town, I was enthralled with Sarah Lawrence. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven."
While at the College, Stearns was very active in the music program. In addition to studying piano and flute, she also sang in the chorus, which was led at the time by faculty member Harold Aks. When Stearns returned to campus in 2006 for the first time in more than 20 years, she made sure to visit with current music students—whom she describes as having "great musical talent and incredible energy." She says she was particularly impressed by the innovative students and faculty creating experimental and electronic music. "What's going on there now is amazing!"
Joan Golan ’70 (Ruth Wilmot Anderson ’29 Society)
On faculty inspiration
By the time Dr. Joan Golan graduated from Sarah Lawrence in 1970, she felt a strong personal commitment to the College's educational mission. Acting on this commitment, Golan made giving to Sarah Lawrence a priority—and has contributed to The Fund for Sarah Lawrence every year since.
“Whoever you are, Sarah Lawrence gives you the opportunity to explore and find yourself, your own interests," she says. "I want to keep this rare form of education going and see that others have the same opportunity I did."
Golan's support of the College was uniquely inspired by her studies with Joe Papaleo '49, Charlotte Doyle, and Joyce Riegelhaupt. Many of the lessons she learned from them are still with her today. For example, Golan cites Papaleo, who was Professor Emeritus of Writing and Literature, with instilling the importance of cultivating creativity. That valuable paradigm informs her work today as executive editor at Harlequin Enterprises Limited. "When speaking with writers, I always begin with the positive aspects of the work," she explains. "That's something I learned at Sarah Lawrence."
A student of creative writing, literature, French, and anthropology, Golan went straight from Sarah Lawrence to Harvard, earning her Ph.D. in English in 1976. While her experiences at Harvard were also enriching, one of the first things she noticed was that there were no women on the English faculty. This observation made her even more appreciative of Doyle and Grace Paley, Sarah Lawrence faculty members whom she sees as models of empowerment. Golan credits these generous educators, among other faculty, with helping her develop a strong sense of self.
I felt very privileged to have a Sarah Lawrence education. Long after graduation, there continue to be opportunities to learn and grow," says Golan, whose daughter, Kit, is currently enrolled at the College. "Sarah Lawrence is true to its founding principles."
Golan's consistent pattern of giving automatically made her eligible for membership in the Ruth Wilmot Anderson '29 Society (RWAS), which is named for the College's first graduate. Anderson established The Fund for Sarah Lawrence in 1930 with a contribution of $25, and subsequently gave every year until her death in 1992. The society recognizes donors who follow in her footsteps, making consecutive FSL gifts for five years or more.