Leading Women Shape USF By: Dave scheiber

The USF System benefits from a growing national trend of increased female philanthropy, reflected in several recent major gifts from women leaders, as well as the growing profile of USF’s own Women in Leadership and Philanthropy organization.

"Through their generosity, female leaders are making a difference in the lives of so many of our students and faculty – leaving a lasting impact on the future."

Judy Genshaft, USF System President

Everywhere you look in the USF System, the heart of charitable giving beats steady and strong. But philanthropy pulses to a particularly robust rhythm when it comes to women.

One needs only to peruse the USF landscape in the past few years to see this transformative trend in action, with Kate Tiedemann’s $10 million gift to the College of Business at USF St. Petersburg, the largest gift the campus has ever received; Lynn Pippenger’s donations of $10 million to the School of Accountancy at the Muma College of Business in Tampa and $5 million to the Tiedemann College of Business in St. Petersburg; or Ellen Cotton’s $1.1 million in gifts for endowed scholarships and student engagement at USFSP.

Of course, they follow the generous leads of Carol Morsani and Pam Muma who, along with their husbands, have helped reshape USF in so many ways – from the Morsani College of Medicine to the Muma College of Business and many formative gifts in between.

The philanthropic mark made by women at the university mirrors a national trend, which highlights a distinct gender gap between male and female donors.

A recent Wall Street Journal story underscored that point, noting that “women are more likely to give, and to give more, than men in similar situations.”

WSJ pointed to some eye-opening findings from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, as well as several of its own:

  • Baby boomer and older women give 89 percent more often than men of the same age range.
  • Women in the top 25 percent income bracket donate 156 percent more than their male counterparts.
  • Women are more generous than men at nearly all income levels, in spite of generally making less money comparatively, and not having as much money in retirement.
One reason for this, says Diane Price Herndl, PhD, chair of USF’s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, may be that “many successful women understand very well that no woman succeeds by herself and they often want to use their gifts to others as a way to honor those that helped them.”
As further explanation of the sizable gap, the article highlights a 2013 U.S. Trust survey on women and wealth, concluding that females “are nearly twice as likely as men to say that giving to charity is the most satisfying aspect of having wealth.”

That said, USF has also enjoyed a long and significant tradition of philanthropy from numerous male donors, many of whom are not even alumni. Whether female or male, selfless giving and a spirit of involvement and support is familiar territory for WLP, which marked its 10th anniversary making a difference in the USF System in 2015. In its own words, WLP’s mission has been “to engage and educate visionary leaders and philanthropists to make a difference for women throughout the USF System and Community.”

In its own words, WLP’s mission has been “to engage and educate visionary leaders and philanthropists to make a difference for women throughout the USF System and Community.”

Founded in 2005 by a small group of women and a handful of Tampa Bay area corporations, the organization was committed to a vision shared by Carol Morsani and USF System President Judy Genshaft: creating the first women’s philanthropic organization in the Tampa Bay region focused on developing the intellectual and leadership potential of women through the promotion of leadership development, mentorship, philanthropy, community engagement and scholarly excellence.

To advance those objectives, over the past 10 years WLP has raised well over $2 million, and has deployed more than $500,000 in grants, scholarships, and other funding to assist female students and faculty members – a sign that USF has been a trailblazer in an area now gaining national exposure.

“Celebrating women’s achievements and building the capacity of current and future female leaders is what we are all about,” says WLP executive director India Witte.

“We’re proud of what we call ‘the power of the collective’ – the impact WLP members have made by leveraging the power of their collective philanthropic and volunteer leadership contributions to create new opportunities for women. And we’re equally proud that this national conversation about women’s leadership in giving reflects the significant work we have been doing for more than a decade now. We are definitely ahead of the curve, and it has benefited many, many lives.”

President Genshaft couldn’t be more excited by the increased philanthropic role of women, and the difference made by the group she helped found. “Through their generosity, female leaders are making a difference in the lives of so many of our students and faculty –leaving a lasting impact on the future.”

It is there that the heart of giving beats into a new decade of women making a difference.

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