More than 100,000 UC alumni and friends share responsibility for the success of the history-making Proudly Cincinnati campaign. Yet for many dedicated alumni, “giving back” isn’t really tied to a campaign — it’s simply part of their lifelong relationship with their alma mater.
Moreover, they seem to share a common perspective: UC gave so much to them that they feel drawn to somehow repay it. That usually comes in the form of paying it forward, benefiting those who are following in their Bearcat footsteps.
In a way, the motivation behind Rob Thornton’s relationship with UC is to find a sense of balance. He gives back because of what UC has given him, knowing that the beneficiaries may be those Bearcats coming along years or even generations behind him.
“I’m inspired by those who have come before me,” says Thornton, Bus ‘02. “I hope my involvement and giving back to the university will help instill the same spirit of service in the next generation and that, as soon as they’re able, they continue the tradition of supporting the institution that has given us so much.”
Thornton, a global account director with CenturyLink Business, was a deeply involved alumnus pretty much as soon as his degree was in hand. He quickly became a leader within the UC Alumni Association’s Young Alumni group (now known as the UC Young Professionals).
“Our undergraduate experience is really the first stage of a lifetime relationship with the university,” he says. “When I consider my closest relationships today and then think about the impact UC has had on those relationships, I’m compelled to be involved and give back.”
Thornton’s generosity affects a multitude of UC family members through an array of initiatives. His roots in the men’s honorary Sigma Sigma have translated into support for the Jed Small Legacy and Danny Dell scholarships, as well as the creation of the Bearcat statue in Varsity Village. He helped fund the recent renovation of Alumni Hall, the large meeting space inside the Myers Alumni Center. He supports the football program and the expansion of Nippert Stadium while being a three-sport season ticket holder. And he provides interview coaching for students in the Lindner College of Business sales program.
“I feel we should put back into the world, at the very least, what we have taken from it,” he says. “To a great degree, opportunities made available to us came about due to selfless acts of giving from others — our parents, teachers, friends, family and, at times, even complete strangers.”
For Thornton and his wife, Kendra, A&S ‘01, many of those opportunities and much of what they have received in life came directly and indirectly from the choice to attend UC. Offering time and resources in return provides that sense of equilibrium and the means by which new students can write their own UC story.
“Whether it is financial gifts, creating a co-op opportunity, hiring loyal Bearcats upon graduation or simply being an ambassador for UC, we can enormously impact our university and alumni network in a positive way,” he says.
Bob and Phyllis Favorite
When you live in State College, Pa., it’s an understatement to say that Penn State looms large over everyone and everything. You’d have to be a pretty hardy, dedicated, passionate couple of Bearcats to stand out from all those Nittany Lions.
That actually sums up Bob and Phyllis Favorite very well. They met and fell in love as students at UC in the early 1970s. Once married the fall before their 1975 graduation, they moved where work took them. Eventually that became State College. Yet the lack of proximity has never been an obstacle when it comes to being actively engaged with their alma mater.
“We were both active on campus in our own ways,” says Bob, Eng ‘75. “UC provided us with a good education, and we were fortunate to have great mentors. Because others cared, we also came to care.”
The Favorites financially support their colleges, Bearcats Athletics (UCATS and the football program’s 1200 Club) and the UC Alumni Association, of which Phyllis is a member of the Board of Governors. They travel extensively — making the day’s trip back to campus for home football games, meetings and big events, as well as attending many Bearcats road games.
“Technology has made it easier to stay in touch,” says Phyllis, Ed ‘75. “Before, as out-of-towners, it was mostly a matter of learning about UC through my brother, who is also an alum and lives in Cincinnati, from occasional mailings and the rare newspaper article. But now I’m able to be a member of the UCAA board from a distance. I contribute what I can with the hope of helping the alumni association reach more and more alumni.
“From both of our perspectives, being involved is just a decision, and then a commitment to that decision.”
For the Favorites, a big part of that lifestyle is their “UC ambassador” role, which they take quite seriously. “We promote UC whenever and wherever we can,” Bob says. “Our friends in State College know for certain that we’re Bearcats.” They are excited to gently educate others — in Pennsylvania and elsewhere — one person at a time if necessary, using Internet blogs, water-cooler talk and heartfelt conversation with fellow alumni.
Giving back in various ways is a form of repayment for how the UC experience has influenced their lives, they each say.
“We’re investing in UC,” Phyllis adds. “We don’t feel we’re special in any particular way. We just see the need for support in higher education in general. If we want students to care and become loyal alumni, we must exhibit that care as alumni ourselves. And we find we always get back more than we give.”
The Latin term alma mater translates to “bountiful or nourishing mother,” and the Favorites take that to heart, which drives their traveling, giving and volunteering in support of UC.
“We are deliberately attached to UC,” says Phyllis. “To detach and never feel that tug on the heart for our alma mater is a foreign concept to us. We liken it to switching mothers — pretty tough to do.”
For Sean McCabe, the value of being involved and giving to others was instilled in him from an early age. Growing up in Wheeling, W.Va., McCabe, Eng ‘09, became an Eagle Scout while compiling an impressive academic resume and developing a desire to study engineering in college.
UC was not on his radar until he happened to hear about and research the co-op program — then it became his front-runner. Still, he would need scholarship help to make it work financially, particularly given out-of-state tuition. Such assistance came together, McCabe enrolled and flourished at UC, and he became an alumnus with a cause.
“Scholarships are a passion of mine,” he says. “Without the scholarships I received, I wouldn’t have become a Bearcat.”
McCabe, a senior business analyst for Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, became a key volunteer with the UC Alumni Association’s Young Professionals group, reinvigorating the Kacher-Bloom Scholarship that supports an outstanding upperclassman while memorializing two UC undergrads who lost their lives in 1985. His giving history with the UCAA includes many gifts to the William Howard Taft Society fund.
He also was active in student government at the university and college levels. Those activities, plus his degree work and co-op experiences, helped McCabe realize that he was becoming closer to his school and enjoying productive college years largely because people who came before him had made it possible.
“I realized while I was in school that those groups were important, and I feel it even more today,” he says. “Recently I helped develop the College of Engineering and Applied Science Alumni Association’s strategic plan and became the new VP for 'future alumni engagement' where I’ll help bridge the gap between alumni and students. I think that will drive a greater sense of loyalty and pride for these lifelong Bearcats.”
Just as the Proudly Cincinnati campaign’s $1 billion-plus total is really about the impact rather than the dollars, McCabe’s monetary gifts to scholarship funds and his college, as well as his gifts of time and expertise to support UCAA’s Young Professionals group, CEAS’s College Advisory Council and UC’s Honors program, are fulfilling because of the ultimate results.
“There’s a lot of impact from my giving back,” he says. “Students are furthering their educations thanks to scholarship programs to which I contribute. Alumni can meaningfully reconnect with their university and each other through various alumni activities I support. And our future alums are learning, as I did, about the network of graduates that stick together as a family, which the Alumni Association oversees.”
As Lamar Cole’s career has progressed, he has found himself gaining greater affection for the University of Cincinnati — the people he has met and the lessons he has learned through his UC connections, as well as a growing understanding of how the dots connect in his life.
This alumni perspective has made Cole, Bus ‘94, more gratified to give back to his alma mater in the ways that mean the most to him. That gratification grows even further when he considers the impact of his actions.
“My time as a UC student was one of the greatest experiences of my life — and it was way too short,” says Cole, an assistant vice president with Huntington Bank in Cleveland. “I established relationships through my activities on campus and in my fraternity. Then after graduating, my career took me back to my native Cleveland. I learned that the best way to keep living the UC experience is to intentionally seek out ways to remain involved.”
Not long after his graduation and relocation, Cole led the effort to bring together a group of Cleveland-area African-American alums for an unofficial reunion of sorts. Many were friends from Cole’s days at the University of Cincinnati, while some were products of different eras at UC. Some even came up from Cincinnati.
One of those friends was Bleuzette Marshall, A&S ‘92, Ed ‘01, M (Ed) ‘09, who happened to work in UC’s development office at the time and is now UC’s interim chief diversity officer. She joined others to do something similar in Cincinnati — first as a cookout in a park off-campus, then as an official part of Homecoming on campus. These activities, traced largely to Cole’s leadership, helped relaunch the group now known as the UC Alumni Association’s African-American Alumni Affiliate (4A).
“When we moved into the UCAA environment, the effort gained momentum and became much broader in scope,” Cole says. “Many of us took on unofficial roles as ambassadors for the group and for greater alumni engagement in general.”
For Cole, being an ambassador includes spreading the word about UC’s successes and advantages, giving regularly to the UC Alumni Association and the Darwin T. Turner Scholarship Fund, and putting C-Paw license plates on his car, knowing that most of those fees go toward funding additional scholarships.
“I’m investing in the university that invested in me,” he says. “My marketing and management degree has opened career doors beyond what I might have dreamed possible. Furthermore, I aspire to be the best and to be associated with the best. Giving back contributes to UC’s resources in its quest to be the best — the nation’s premier public urban research university.”
Cole believes that generosity from alumni produces ripple effects through the entire UC community while highlighting the commonality of the student experience.
“The more our individual and collective giving back empowers UC to attract talented students, support students in need and energize our alumni to this purpose, the more all of us stand to gain,” he says.