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Seattle University


Giving at the Office

Written by Mike Thee
January 11, 2010

Dick Cunningham (assistant professor and director of Contextual Education in the School of Theology and Ministry) and Laurie Prince (director of New Student & Family Programs) will lead the 2010 Faculty and Staff Giving Campaign. Cunningham and Prince recently sat down with The Commons to talk about why they agreed to serve, what they’re hoping the campaign will accomplish and a few other odds and ends for good measure.

The Commons:  So, why did you say “yes” to being co-chairs of this year’s faculty and staff giving campaign?

Dick Cunningham:  I said “yes” because I like working at Seattle U. It’s a challenging place where I use my own abilities, knowledge and experience as a teacher sharing insights and learnings with students.  And I also gain because I learn from students, faculty and staff. It’s a place of growth and opportunity for me. Saying “yes” is a way for me to give back. I think it’s important for me to take on this challenge and offer what I can to the SU community.

Laurie Prince: I would agree this is a very lively place in my life and my work. I’ve given for years but to kind of go beyond that and say, “How can I serve the university in a new way?”  It is something totally out of my comfort zone in terms of making the “ask.” But it’s critical for us and our mission, that more of us are at least aware and can be a part of it.

The Commons:  If you were to have a one-on-one conversation colleague, how would you go about encouraging that colleague to support the campaign?

Laurie:   I think one of the things here for me in terms of colleagues is commitment to mission and that seems to be the hook for lots of us working here, at least on the staff side…that connection and commitment to the mission and how being a part of the campaign can support that work.          

Dick:  I would lift up the value of giving and invite the other to explore his or her return on the investment. Think of it this way: I am hired as a faculty member, that in itself is a rare privilege. It’s an opportunity for me to experience, practice and perfect my craft. In this campaign, I have a chance to invest in others and to put something back in the till rather than just taking something out. We live in an age when it’s easy to look at “what’s in it for me.” I think that the economic flavor of this country is built on that—“Can we spend more money shopping and can we buy more things?” The campaign gives us the opportunity to not only give something back—it gives us the opportunity to invest in an educational enterprise that we value and believe in.

The Commons:  What will a successful faculty and staff giving campaign look like to you?

Dick:  It would be nice for faculty and staff to contribute to the whole and there no doubt would be some kind of thermometer showing we gave this number of dollars, but I think it goes beyond that. I think if we only focus on the dollars we miss something. It is great to have those dollars, but I think there is an educational piece. The campaign provides us with way to celebrate our work together. I could not function in my role as a faculty member in the School of Theology and Ministry if it were not for our staff.  Likewise it is important for our staff to be a part of this campaign. So it’s not just about faculty, it’s not just about staff, but it’s about all of us working together and to express in some way our value in that common work that we engage in.

Another point for me is that the campaign is also testimony for our students. For our students to be aware that these faculty not only get paid but they believe enough in what they’re doing that they give something back—and not just the faculty but the staff, and I think that’s a great testimony for other people.

And finally, it’s very, very helpful when schools and colleges within the university go after grant monies or monies from private foundations—oftentimes there’s a question about how many faculty and staff contribute to the university. And think to be able to say we have a high percentage of faculty and staff that believe enough in this university and the student body that they contribute, I think, then, that corporations and granting foundations get the notion that this is a valid program in which to invest their funds.

Laurie:  I think the campaign also expresses a belief in our students and what they bring to the world. For people to have an awareness of that and a commitment to that would be a success for me.

The Commons:  Shifting gears here, what is it that brought you to Seattle University or keeps you coming back each day?

Laurie:  I think if you’re a student affairs professional, Jesuit education really speaks to a wholistic environment, and our attempts to live that—wholistic development, academic excellence and the mission—keep me connected here. I think we have the best of all worlds here at Seattle University in terms of size, mission and location. It’s an interpersonal institution, so those are the things that keep me coming back. We don’t always hit the target but we’re trying.

Dick:  Every day as I come on campus I wonder “what new thing does this day bring forth?” There’s an excitement about this place, from the people who work in the gardens and facilities, to the faculty and staff—it allows me to experience life in a very rich way.

As for why I came here, it was the openness of Seattle University to create a School of Theology and Ministry, which is a radical design for doing theological education in this time and this age. Never before has there been an enterprise where 12 denominations agree to creatively partner creating a graduate school of theology under one dean. SU helps me live out a professional dream that helps connect various ecclesial traditions with rudimentary elements of the Judeo-Christian faith tradition in a way that I think is needed across the world. Our work is extremely important as we seek to educate women and men for pastoral care, pastoral ministry, both lay and ordained, to engage in professional ministry within the church and the broader community. To be a member of the teaching faculty is a gift.

The Commons:  You’ve both been at SU for a while and are very well-known throughout campus, but is there anything about you that your colleagues might be surprised to learn?

Laurie:  (Laughs) I’m afraid to answer that. I don’t know about you, Dick, but I’m not going there…

The Commons:  It’s not required…

Dick:  I think I might have something… I like to play Xbox, and I like to play Xbox with my grandson who’s in Ithaca, New York. He’s into some of the shoot-em-up gory games, and I’m not.

The Commons:  Which games do you play with him?

DC:  Oh, LEGO Star Wars, ping-pong and that kind of thing.

The Commons:  How about you, Laurie, anything about you that might surprise your colleagues?

Laurie:  Most of my off-work passions, my colleagues already pretty much know about.

The Commons:  What are some of those?

Laurie:  I’m a big Red Sox fan. I also like gardening, golf and exploring Washington boutique wines.

The Commons:  How about you, Dick, what besides Xbox do you like to do when you’re not at STM?

Dick:  I like to make wooden toys for our grandkids, and so I’ve made a rocking horse, elephant and a biplane, and these are the sorts of things you can ride on. And I just completed for our two-year-old granddaughter a two-story (with attic), six-room doll house complete with wall-papered walls and a cedar shake roof. I also like to garden. We like to travel, go to sporting events, spend time with our grandkids.

The Faculty and Staff Giving Campaign is an annual opportunity for employees to contribute funds in support of Seattle University. Gifts of any size to any fund on campus during any part of the current fiscal year count toward this year’s Faculty and Staff Giving Campaign. To learn more about making a gift contact Helen Sernett, assistant director of Annual Giving at (206) 296-2332 or