By Francis Landrey P’06
Our celebration of the new Campbell Fitness Center and renovated Stack Lounge prompted me to think about generosity in general, and philanthropy in particular. All who have contributed to this aspect of The Campaign for Hartwick Students have engaged in an act of philanthropy.
Most of us would limit the term “philanthropist” to people like Andrew Carnegie, William Campbell, or the founders of the Dewar Foundation. But I think in doing so, we are selling ourselves short. We are all philanthropists – whether that fact is evidenced by a gift of food to a food pantry, a contribution to legal services for those unable to afford counsel, or a donation to Hartwick College. It is really a matter of degree which will, in turn, be dictated by means. Are we to be deprived of the honor of being considered “philanthropists” simply because our means are not those of an Andrew Carnegie? I think not.
It is important to consider the nature of the philanthropic act and its importance to the communities in which we all live. When I consulted my Concise Oxford Dictionary I was surprised to learn that “philanthropy” has a broader definition than commonly understood; it is: “Love of mankind; practical benevolence.”
Taking this latter branch of the definition first – practical benevolence – the key to my mind is the word “practical” because it conveys an active, not passive, benevolence. It means getting involved; being engaged. It is not the kind of benevolence that sits on the sidelines and beams adoringly at those engaged in the struggles of the real world. It is practical; it is directed; it is intended to be effective.
As to the first branch of the definition – Love of mankind – those steeped in the etymology of the English language will recognize its literalism. The ancient Greek roots are: “Phil” – love – and “anthropos” – mankind. To explore this further I turned to my older son Leo, an assistant professor of Classics at Fordham University. I sent him an email asking if he could weigh in on the ancient Greek roots of the word “philanthropy.” I think his response conveys the deeper meaning of what is involved in our acts of philanthropy.
“Hey Pop”, his response began, “You should focus on the first stem – ‘phil.’ ‘Phil’ comes from ‘philia’ and one understanding of ‘philia’ is that it is a uniting force. For example, ‘philia’ is the force that binds husband to wife and citizen to citizen. It is the binding force of a given community.” He consulted Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon, a work which I’m sure is oft-consulted by all of us, and cited the fifth definition of “philia:” “The natural force which unites discordant elements and movements.” “Philia” is the opposite of strife or quarrel. Philanthropy thus can be described as a demonstration of this quality towards your fellow man.
The force that binds. A uniting force. Bringing the various elements of our community together. The Campbell Fitness Center is an excellent example. Philanthropists large and small came together and made this wonderful facility a reality.
The Campaign for Hartwick, of which the Campbell Fitness Center is right now the most palpable example, is designed to bind all of us in the larger Hartwick community together, donors large and small, in the common venture of enhancing the total experience for our students. Whether your passion is the arts and music, exposure to different cultures through J Term study abroad, athletics, or scholarships for students for whom the resources to afford a Hartwick education are beyond their reach, this Campaign gives us all the opportunity to be engaged. To make a practical difference. To be benevolent in a very concrete and effective way.
How important is it to each of us to make a difference in the lives of others? As I am sure none of us realized when we were college students, generations of philanthropists that preceded us, large and small, made our own education possible. The same holds true in so many of our other daily activities. Did you ever stop to contemplate the importance in our lives of past acts of philanthropy? They are all around us. Whether in our places of worship, our parks, our hospitals, our museums, our symphony halls, our scout camps, those gifts of past philanthropists have had an impact on each of us. And right here at Hartwick, from our buildings, to Pine Lake, to the support of the Wick Athletic Association, to the many scholarships funded by generous donors, the generosity of past philanthropists surrounds us. Where would we be without their practical benevolence?
We have all heard the term “pay it forward.” Well, it applies here. Be engaged. Make a difference. Return the favor that previous generations of philanthropists bestowed upon you as a means of both giving thanks and of carrying that practical benevolence, that binding force, forward to a new generation. As I am sure everyone who has contributed to The Campaign for Hartwick Students will confirm, doing good feels good. Each of us in our own way can make philanthropy to Hartwick a priority and benevolently enjoy the rewards of a better, stronger Hartwick for generations to come.
Landrey is Chair of Hartwick’s Board of Trustees and the father of Owen Landrey ‘06