St. Bonaventure University has received an anonymous gift of $1 million from an alumnus to support entrepreneurial service learning.
Received during the Christmas holiday, the leadership gift will endow service programs in the School of Business, specifically Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), and BonaResponds.
“In this time of economic uncertainty, this tremendous gift illustrates the donor’s firm belief in the comprehensive service learning happening across our campus and the activities that benefit economies at the local, national and international level,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., S.T.D., president of the university. “I am especially pleased to announce this gift during St. Bonaventure’s sesquicentennial as service to others has been a hallmark of our University’s century-and-a-half existence. This gift allows our students to continue to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
The $1 million gift will provide annual support to innovative programs that prepare students to lead and serve.
The SIFE program, which focuses on economic empowerment and entrepreneurial education, provides both local and international programs and ranks in the top 5 percent of SIFE teams nationwide. In its fifth year, it operates service trips to the Bahamas and Africa and works with nearly 20 schools in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free income tax preparation to lower income citizens within Cattaraugus County. In the first five years of the VITA program, St. Bonaventure students have invested 6,000 service hours to generate more than $1.6 million in income tax refunds for Cattaraugus County residents. Last year, working in cooperation with the United Way and the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services, VITA opened a retail location in the Olean Center Mall.
BonaResponds, a group composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni and local residents formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, sent nearly 300 relief workers to the Gulf Coast immediately following the storm, one of the largest collegiate efforts in the nation. Since then BonaResponds has sponsored dozens of initiatives that have assisted people both locally and nationally.
“Our faculty, staff and students have worked incredibly hard over the past five years to bring these programs to life. This gift is not just a vindication of our hard work but of our vision of serving our communities while providing extraordinary opportunities for our students to grow,” said Todd Palmer, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Business and lead SIFE adviser. “We are extremely blessed to have a donor who sees that the ties between the community and the university must be strengthened and has given us the resources to take this program to the next level.”
Susan Anders, Ph.D., CPA, professor of accounting and VITA adviser added: “As we face the beginning of a new tax season, the VITA volunteers are incredibly grateful for both the resources and the recognition, but especially for the recognition.”
Funding co-curricular programs is a key initiative in the university’s current Anniversary Campaign for St. Bonaventure.
“This gift, while advancing our students’ education and career paths, also enhances the energy level of our campaign as we head into the critical final months,” said Mary Driscoll, associate vice president for advancement.
To date, more than $93 million in cash and pledges has been raised in the campaign, Driscoll said. Launched to the public in September 2005, the campaign will conclude this May as St. Bonaventure ends its 15-month sesquicentennial celebration.
About the University: St. Bonaventure is in the top 25 percent of institutions in U.S. News & World Report’s 2009 ranking of Northern Universities – Master’s. It has a history of accomplishment and service that extends back 150 years. At the heart of St. Bonaventure University is the Franciscan affirmation of the dignity and worth of the entire created order. Fundamental to this vision is an awareness that it is within relationships and community that individuals discover and develop their potential.