Dollars and change

During the last Republican presidential debate, candidate Dr. Ben Carson made an interesting observation. Challenged on his proposal for a flat tax, he addressed the contention of some who say that without a tax break philanthropy would dry up. Not true, he said, because people who give will always give because they are generous.

If one believes the definition of philanthropy: “goodwill to fellowmen, especially active effort to promote human welfare,”* then Dr. Carson is right.

People who give do so because it means something. It creates positive change. It makes us all better. And when the good will of philanthropists intersects with the enormous changes that education can wrought, wonderful things happen.

Showker-2That’s what philanthropists and JMU alumni Joe (’79) and Debbie (’78) Showker believe. For decades, the Showkers have poured their lives into their students, as middle-school and elementary-school teachers. They have also helped myriad departments and organizations throughout James Madison University, affirming their commitment to the change that education brings.

It’s a lesson they learned well from Joe’s father, the late Zane Showker — a man grateful for his own success who believed that he had a moral obligation to make his community a better place. He, like Joe and Debbie after him, did that indeed.

A simple gift of philanthropy can have untold impacts, but one thing is absolutely certain: An investment in education creates an ROI that is priceless.

Let’s cite just two examples: The Challace McMillin Center for Sport Psychology, which the Showkers generously supported, focuses on the psychology of sport and helping athletes maximize their performance both on and off the field. It also provides a laboratory experience for psychology students who are able to work with athletes and coaches. The center promotes success in the classroom and in their chosen arenas of competition — and later in their careers. Extending the reach even further, the center has a huge outreach in the community through local youth and high school sports mentorships.

More recently, for the Alison Parker Memorial, established to honor the young reporter tragically killed earlier this year, the Showkers stepped up with a matching gift to spur others to give to a scholarship fund that will prepare students who will venture into the world with the same integrity, enthusiasm and talent that Alison lived.

Philanthropists like the Showkers — who want to do more than sit back and watch change — actively, regularly and repeatedly invest in the future of their communities, in students, and in worthy programs. They invest in lives with their sustained philanthropy — and those lives can touch the ends of the earth.

*Miriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, eleventh edition

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