Western University super-fans often describe themselves as purple-and-proud – but they’re also imbued with a generous glow of United Way red.
“The Western University community is among the largest donors to United Way every year, and Western is perennially one of the top university campaigns in the country,” said Kelly Ziegner, United Way Elgin Middlesex president and CEO and Western alum (BA’95).
“Equally important, staff, faculty, students, alumni and retirees consistently step up to give their time and research expertise. All that is a sign of genuine commitment to London and region.”
The university’s partnerships with United Way stretch back several decades and include significant monetary donations and countless hours of volunteer time, said Ziegner.
She said the university’s celebration of its founding on March 2 also serves as a reminder of the important role Western students, staff, faculty, alumni and retirees play beyond campus.
Contributions exceed $15M
The Western community’s contributions in the past three decades – including this year’s tally of $612,568 – have now topped $15.4 million.
And that represents just some of the generosity Western has exhibited through the years.
Every year, Ziegner said, Western folks contribute in so many other important ways:
- Administrators and faculty who spend hours above and beyond their regular work to organize on-campus campaign events.
- Participants in Student StairClimb. Staff who bake pies and organize department raffles and take part in the annual Day of Caring at local agencies.
- Sponsored employees who are seconded to United Way by Western to inspire others to give back to their community.
- Alumni who serve on Campaign cabinet and retirees who continue to offer support long after their working years are done.
- Staff who serve on the board, including current chair Eric Mallory (Western’s associate vice-president, finance) and vice-chair Maly Bun-Lebert (manager of the Western-based Centre of Research & Education on Violence against Women and Children).
Time, talents, expertise
United Way has also benefited from Western researchers and student leaders who share their insights and perspectives in outreach to the community.
That includes the Ivey Community Consulting Project and valuable ongoing work towards equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), with guidance from Western’s Black Leadership University Experience (BLUE) program.
Through the BLUE program, Jessica Brown, a fourth-year medical science student, is helping United Way connect with a more diverse range of community agencies who might need funding opportunities. She is also helping develop and refine best practices in internal and external communications.
“We want to ensure that we’re speaking appropriately and to the best of our ability with our diverse communities,” Brown said. “And while this partnership helps United Way bring an equity lens to its work, it also allows me to develop skills of collaboration that I might not otherwise have developed.”
Powerhouse in the community
Ziegner noted that the strong relationship between Western and community-wide causes “hails back many decades, when folks from the university went door-to-door asking for support for what was then called Community Chest and then United Appeal.”
The 1969 United Appeal at Western, for example, launched with a goal of raising $48,000 (they ultimately raised $49,000) in a campaign that featured a televised concert by London-born country-music legend Tommy Hunter and his new recording Walk With Your Neighbor.
“We all know Western is a powerhouse in academics, research, sports and student experience, and Western Day honours that legacy and newer traditions. The day also gives us an opportunity to reflect on just how consistently Western has been committed – and remains committed – to working together across the region to build communities where everyone matters,” Ziegner said.