Alumni & Donors

Alumni and Friends Gather for Annual Celebration of Philanthropy Dinner

A program card stands upright on one of the guest dinner tables.
A celebration dinner for loyal and generous donors of Stevens was held September 17, 2016.

Every fall, eager students and faculty return to Stevens, and so do loyal and generous donors for a special event. On September 17, more than 100 alumni and friends gathered in the Bissinger Room for the annual Celebration of Philanthropy, where they heard enthusiastic speakers and recognized new members of the university’s four diverse giving societies.

President Nariman Farvardin hosted the evening, and he began by connecting the university’s high rankings to donor support. “Like all other universities, all great universities in this country, we are heavily dependent on philanthropic support.”

Two Stevens Trustees gave guest speeches, starting with Michael Cahill ’15, who told how his gratitude for attending Stevens on a scholarship has prompted him to support his alma mater. 

“I’ve made a gift to Stevens every year since my third year of undergrad. I’m staying involved as a young alumnus, and I’m working to keep my classmates informed and involved in their post-grad lives, even if it is through Facebook posts or a chat over a drink about why giving to Stevens is so important.”

Following Cahill, Sam Reckford spoke about his connection to the university as the grandson, four generations removed, of founders Edwin and Martha Stevens.

“I like to think of the archives here as the family attic,” he joked. “I think Edwin and Martha would be proud of what the faculty, the administration and the alumni have done to build this school over the last century and a half and advance the pursuit of innovation.”

Hoveida Farvardin, the wife of President Farvardin, gave the keynote speech. An executive with the World Bank, she spoke about how she grew fond of Stevens soon after arriving, developing interests in supporting scholarships, preserving the university’s history, and building gardens on campus. Her gratitude for the opportunities given her in her own life sparked a desire, and a feeling of duty, to give back.

“All of us are in this room tonight because somebody gave us an opportunity in life,” she said. “I think it is important to think about those people and how important it is to give others opportunities. It’s a very powerful thing to be able to do that for our young generation, and for this very special place.” 

After the dinner, Dawn da Silva, assistant vice president for development, called the names of new members over the past year to the university’s four giving societies: the Edwin A. Stevens (EAS) Society, the Stevens Legacy Society, the four-tier Lifetime Giving Societies and the new Gear Society.

The EAS Society is an annual gift club for the most engaged Stevens donors, who make leadership-level gifts each fiscal year. Four of the new members to the over 500-strong EAS Society attended the Celebration of Philanthropy, including Linda Thomas-Mobley, Andrea and Ronald West ’71 and George Young ’76.

Eighteen donors joined the Stevens Legacy Society by naming Stevens as a beneficiary in their estates or financial plans, including attendees Larry Babbio ’66, Leon Hojegian ’61, Fred Paulson ’59 and George Young.

The four-tier Lifetime Giving Societies recognize donors whose giving has reached monumental levels, beginning at $100,000. Leon Hojegian and George Young joined the entry Andrew Carnegie Society, while the family of Donald Blum ’45 reached the Henry Morton Society, Hoveida and President Farvardin, and George Young reached the Martha Bayard Stevens Society, and Fred Paulson reached the top level, the Kenneth W. DeBaun ’49 Society, whose members have bestowed Stevens with $1 million or more.

Alongside those three groups, the new Gear Society acknowledges alumni who give to the university, in any amount, year after year. More than 2,000 alumni have given for at least the past two years, with hundreds giving for 10, 20, 25 years or more. These loyal donors give Stevens a strong start each fiscal year as the university looks to maintain a high alumni participation rate, a key stat for national rankings.

With the new Gear Society in place, Stevens can begin recognizing a truly exceptional group of donors. Just as legendary tennis players achieve a grand slam by winning the sport’s four major tournaments, donors can complete a giving grand slam with membership in all four philanthropic groups. Several of the university’s 29 generous legends stood for applause at the dinner, including Babbio, Helen and Ken DeGraw, Blanche and David Haid ’57, Hojegian, Rosa and John Hovey ’57, Janet and Richard Magee ’63, Jo-Ann and Dwight Massey ’53, Paulson, Rick Roscitt ’73, Joe Schneider ’46, Mary Jane and Frank Semcer ’65, and Holly and Marty Valerio ’68.

In his closing remarks, President Farvardin said he was encouraged that Stevens has developed a vibrant culture of philanthropy, especially now during the ambitious Power of Stevens fundraising campaign.

“We are in a campaign mode, and we need to continue to work very hard. When you get involved, when you care, when you send your annual contribution, we know that you think of us, and there’s nothing more important that.”