Professor’s endowment to give back to students

File Photo
Bob Long embraces Sharda Bettis, who won an award at last year’s Giving Back award ceremony.File Photo Bob Long embraces Sharda Bettis, who won an award at last year’s Giving Back award ceremony.
File Photo Bob Long embraces Sharda Bettis, who won an award at last year’s Giving Back award ceremony.

File Photo
Bob Long embraces Sharda Bettis, who won an award at last year’s Giving Back award ceremony.

Visiting Distinguished Professor Robert Long and his wife Patricia Mendez Long have established the Giving Back Endowment to provide Murray State students with innovative and educational experiences centered on altruism and generosity that will last forever at the University.

The Giving Back Endowment was established with a pledge of $150,000 with the goal of donations matching the amount for an total $300,000 endowed fund. The Giving Back Program created by Long in 2008 has given away more than $100,000 to local nonprofits such as Need Line, West Kentucky Mentoring, Main Street Youth Center, Murray-Calloway Endowment for Healthcare and the Murray Art Guild.

The endowment will ensure that the Giving Back Program can continue forever, as an endowment only generates funds and never uses the principle amount.

“Classes in the nonprofit leadership studies program are very hands on; instead of working on case studies all day, we are actually out in the field practicing the work, whether it be through philanthropic gifts or service learning,” said Mallory Ackles, sophomore from Crestwood, Ky.

The endowment will benefit all disciplines, allowing students to benefit from the teaching method involving service learning and student leadership that are emphasized in the major where the Giving Back Program began. The distribution method of the funds will be up to specific faculty members.

“Being able to learn in a hands-on environment and actually having a hand in philanthropy prior to getting into the workplace gives all Murray State students a leg up,” Ackles said.

The reason behind establishing the endowment stems from feelings of “indebtedness and gratefulness” Long said.  He created the endowment to give back to what he believes in while encouraging 20 year olds to do the same. He said he believes that he is “so much a better person because of his students,” and sees this as his chance to give back.

“I owe my career to a bunch of 20 year olds,” Long said. “It’s not about my legacy, it’s about promoting philanthropy as a way to develop students.”

The endowment is sustaining and encouraging service learning at the University, and allowing students to work for the future, said Trish Lofton, administrative assistant in the College of Education and Human Services.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty, staff and the University community to contribute to a worthy program that benefits students with philanthropy experience as well as assisting the community,” Lofton said.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to become founders of the endowment by giving a one-time donation. When a donation of any amount is given, the individual or family becomes a founder and has their name on the endowment.

Long and Lofton are encouraging founders to take a photo with a sign that says, “I’m giving back. What about you?” as a way to illustrate the endowment.

“There is more of a personal connection when a founder writes their own sign,” Lofton said. “When you see the photo, you can feel their support.”

Donations or pledges to donate are being taken until the end of the calendar year, and in the spring of 2016 the grants will be distributed. 

Those interested in becoming founders should stop by the table in the Curris Center April 14–16 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and have their photo taken at the photo booth with the giving back sign. Donations can also be given online at www.murraystate.edu/givenow, and specify the Giving Back Endowment. Long encourages those interested in more information to email him at rlong@murraystate.edu. 

Long desires the funds to be raised through donations of benefactors of the money, rather than professional relationships he has made through his previous career accomplishments. The founders of the endowment would be part of the legacy, according to Long.

“Thanking and giving back carries legacy,” Long said. “This is about their legacy.”

Story by Abby Siegel, Contributing writer