Portrait in Philanthropy: Brian R. Wright, Esq. H'03 PM'11
This portrait appeared in The Wick magazine: Fall 2011
Brian R. Wright has perspective born of experience. A Hartwick College Trustee for 26 years, his voice has been heard on the Education Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Student Life Committee, among others. Chairman of the Board of Wilber National Bank for 25 years and a Director for 30, he successfully oversaw the acquisition of Oneonta's hometown bank by Community Bank System, Inc. His reach extends deep into Oneonta organizations and far beyond.
"When you have the opportunity to be involved in multiple organizations and efforts, it's easier to see how their being supportive of one another will be best for the community," he says. "I've been able to use my training as an attorney to foster positive engagement." Wright, an attorney, is of counsel to Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP of Binghamton and a member of the bar in New York and Florida for more than 40 years.
"When something needs funding and you can make the difference, youdo," he says simply. "It might be an initial contribution, or a challenge,or an addition that makes something better for many." For this attitude and the couple's selﬂess actions, in 2007, the Hartwick Citizens' Board recognized Brian and Josie Wrightas Oneonta Citizens of the Year.
Their 29-consecutive-year donor history includes numerous transformational gifts to the College. The latest: The Brian and Josie Wright Endowed Scholarship, which will support the ﬁnest students in their pursuit of a Hartwick education. The gift represents an investment-in Hartwick, its students, and the upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign.
"Hartwick's combination of the liberal arts and practice is so meaningful to me," says this graduate of Princeton University. "Hartwick students have opportunities to succeed and to fail. From that experience, they become better people, better spouses, better parents, better workers, and better members of their communities. Hartwick graduates are prepared to go out and do good things."
A Family Tradition
The weight he places on service stems from the deepest roots. Generations of the Wright family have led rich and fulﬁlling lives by combining hard work with commitment to family and to community.
W. Clyde Wright, Brian's father, was born on the family's Milford farm in 1908 and graduated from Oneonta High School. Clyde Wright became a prominent businessman, owner of Wright's Electric Company in Oneonta. Now, more than 20 years after his death, Clyde Wright is still revered as a civic leader of great generosity. With his wife, Mildred, he spearheaded support for a cross-section of organizations, including Hartwick College, the Oneonta Family YMCA, Oneonta High School, and the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Despite his modest manner, he was asked to run for Congress and served as a district governor of Rotary International.
Like Father, Like Son
Hartwick College ﬁgured prominently in Clyde Wright's life of service, just as it does for his son. Neither graduated from Hartwick, yet both have played leadership roles in its governance, have given generously to advance its mission, and have helped develop its place in the community. Clyde Wright served on the Board of Trustees for six years, was a founder of the Hartwick Citizens' Board, and made lead gifts to such projects as the Miller Science Hall that honored his friend, Professor of Biology Fritz Miller. In 1957, Hartwick thanked W. Clyde Wright with the Distinguished Service Award.
"My father's giving strategy was simple," his son says. "A strong Hartwick meant more relatively well-paid employees, which meant more people buying washers and dryers from him in the 1950s. He also knew that Hartwick is part of what makes people want to work here, and live here. The stronger Hartwick is, the stronger the community will be."
The family's largess carries far beyond this town. "There are many students at Hartwick who legitimately need the help to come or to stay here," Brian Wright says. "If you can make a difference for them, overtime, not only is the College better, but whatever community they go to will be better.
"Years ago, Brian and his Oneonta high school sweetheart, Josie, settled in Broome County--close to Oneonta and to his growing law practice in Binghamton--to raise their two children. They now divide their time among the family cottage near Oneonta; visits to Philadelphia, where son Rick is an artist; and their home in Jupiter, FL, where daughter Kelly, an attorney, also lives with their beloved grandson, Jasper.
Regardless of where he resides, Brian Wright is a hometown boy at heart, committed to its vitality and to the future of many communities through the graduates of Hartwick College.