Professional Athletes an Untapped Source of Donations for Schools
PHILANTHROPY NEWS DIGEST
Professional Athletes an Untapped Source of Donations for SchoolsWhen Atlanta Hawks guard Steve Smith donated $2.5 million in January to Michigan State University, where he played basketball from 1987-1991, it was the largest known contribution by an active professional athlete to his alma mater. Smith's gift will be used for the construction of a student-athlete center on campus, to be named in honor of his mother, who died of cancer during his rookie season in the NBA. Yet of all alumni groups, professional athletes are among the least likely to make gifts to their respective schools. The rarity of gifts such as Smith's, particularly at a time when the salaries of professional athletes have soared, has caused many university development officers to wonder why they haven't been able to consistently tap this resource before now and why more professional athletes haven't given more generously to their alma maters. "Sometimes, I don't think we as development officers have been as aggressive, or have worked with our athletes as closely as we could have," said Charles Webb, the vice president of development at Michigan State University. Some development officers suggest that student-athletes may feel they've already "given" to their school by playing sports particularly high-profile sports that bring their universities large amounts of money and publicity. And an increasing number of student-athletes are leaving school after their first or second year to play professionally. Many student-athletes also speak of feeling alienated from the general student body and of being stigmatized for receiving a "free ride." As a result, they end up feeling more loyalty to their team than to their school. Still, university development officers hope Smith's gift will inspire other alumni athletes to give.
Rhoden, William C. "Players Don't Show Colleges the Money; A Professional Athlete's Gift Highlights a Complex Issue." "Education Life." New York Times 4/6/97, section 4A, p. 22.
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