ILLUSTRATION: JEFF KOTERBA
Q: This past year, we had two cases of families of applicants who, to be blunt, implied that they were willing to make generous gifts to our institution if we could guarantee the admission of their child. I guess you could call them "pay to play" applicants. Of course, we told them that, no, this was not anything we would ever consider doing. At a later staff meeting, we talked about creating written guidelines for handling similar situations should they arise in the future. Can you offer suggestions for developing such a policy?
A: There are times when cultural differences may lead to awkward conversations with a potential donor about gifts and admission of a child. While you can express gratitude for their intention and clarify that you do not have involvement with admissions and cannot guarantee any kind of outcome, being able to refer to an institutional policy conveying what is appropriate in the admission process is helpful.
For example, our Gift Acceptance Policy includes the following statement: "Gifts from a family of an applicant-for-admission will not be accepted prior to written notification of that applicant's acceptance if the applicant family is not part of any other constituency of Harvard-Westlake School."
Edward Hu, head of external relations, Harvard-Westlake School, California
Your Favorite Things
In my office, I have a small organ pipe, which I built at a "pipe organ encounter" at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York. I started piano lessons in first grade and then added the organ as an eighth-grader. My dad was a Lutheran minister, so I spent a lot of time in church. I was fascinated by how you play the organ with your whole body—when you get your arms and legs going, it's like you're dancing to the music you're creating.
I was a rising high school sophomore when I attended the organ encounter—a week of lessons, practice, and concerts. We also got to see how Parsons Organ Builders in Bristol, New York, makes organs, which requires a mix of woodworking, metalworking, design, and music. We assembled wooden pipes at the Parsons workshop and learned how to adjust different components to change the pitch.
During my week at Eastman, I learned that while I was a capable organist, I didn't have the talent (or willingness to practice enough) to play professionally. Later, at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, I was a business major and phonathon caller, then an intern in the advancement office, and the rest is history. I have been an advancement professional my entire career, for the past 10 years at the University of Rochester.
I keep the organ pipe in my office to remind me of my first experience at the University of Rochester—as a teenager trying to figure out what to do with my life. I didn't know it then, but learning that I didn't want to be a professional musician was one step toward finding a career I truly love.
Elizabeth Dollhopf-Brown, assistant vice president, patient and family giving, University of Rochester Medical Center, New York