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Being a Benefactor Can Create a “Living Legacy” and Make a Positive Difference

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Why do donors give to a university? How do they decide what to support? And, what benefits do faculty and students actually receive from a major gift? These are questions that we attempted to answer in a three way discussion among a donor, a faculty member and a student.

Barbara Geralds is a long-time friend of Ohio University. She helped finance and create the Barbara Geralds Schoonover Professorship in Health Communication and most recently, she is the primary benefactor for the new Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact.
On a visit to Athens, she talked with WOUB’s Tom Hodson about the personal benefits of donating to colleges and universities that share your passions.

“You need to find a place or a program that fits your passions,” she said. “As a nurse, I was interested in health communication so I found a program that emphasized that here at Ohio University.”

She created the professorship in health communication and Dr. Lynn Harter was named to that position. Harter now also is the co-director of the Storytelling Institute.

Dr. Harter saw the gifts as opportunities to reach beyond the classroom and to delve into health communication in realistic settings. She trained students to participate in documentary filmmaking and interviewing. She also involved Geralds in the on-the-scene work of students and other filmmakers.

“It was so important for Lynn to keep me involved,” Geralds said. “It not only builds relationships but it also allowed me to see, first-hand, how my gift was being utilized. That is so important to benefactors.”

Students also are important to Geralds and senior Kaorin Marshall, from the School of Communication Studies in the Scripps College of Communication, said that learning outside the classroom has given her a value-added element to her education.

“By being able to challenge myself and move away from the safety of the classroom, I was able to push myself and learn in a more realistic and real-world manner,” Marshall said.

“I can’t describe adequately the wonderful feeling I have when I see my donation being used in positive ways by faculty and students,” Geralds added.