During the 50-plus years Emeritus Professor Dr. Richard and Mrs. Joan '78 Fenton have been part of the SUNY Brockport community, they have treasured their interactions with students. And, when they considered giving to the College, their first concern was for gifts that enhance student lives.
"When I came to Brockport, I was just getting out of the Army," says Rich, who noted he accepted his offer to teach from the late Dr. Albert Brown, who was building a series of new departments on campus, including Rich's specialtyEconomicsas he led Brockport's transition from a teachers' to a liberal arts college. Dr. Rawle Farley, faculty chair of the new Economics Department was also influential in Rich's decision to come to the college.
"As a professor,' Rich says, "I was impressed with what a lot of good kids there are at Brockport." He found himself informally mentoring 15 to 25 students each year, meeting with them individually, and often inviting one or more to his home for dinner where Joan shared his interest in encouraging them. "Being able to work with the students - that's why I stayed in teaching."
While Rich was entering into life on campus, Joan became involved with the Brockport community, and when her sons were school age, she went back to school herself to earn a master's degree in education. "I loved it all," she says of her Brockport program. "The students and faculty were all very collegial. The best thing about my studies was getting to know Dr. Frances Moroney Whited, who was a professor and mentor, and later my friend."
After serving as a reading teacher at Oliver Middle School in Brockport, she ran for a seat on the Brockport School Board, a position she held for 10 years. She and Rich are proud of their work in helping to establish Building Excellence in Students Today - BEST, a foundation that provides funds for projects not in the school district budget.
Along with his faculty responsibilities, Rich became involved with the Advancement Division as a faculty co-chair of the annual fund, meeting with people involved in all aspects of giving. As a result, he and Joan moved beyond making only annual fund gifts to exploring other options. The couple has endowed two scholarships, one focusing on business, Rich's area of interest, and the other on the Arts for Children program, Joan's interest.
Then they made a planned gift to benefit the School of Business and Management. "I can't think of a better way of supporting students and the school than having a lasting legacy," says Joan. "It's an awfully nice feeling."
The couple understands that while many student s have financial needs, they often are private about such matters. They also realize that many students work in order to attend school.
Their planned gift, like their endowed scholarships will benefit Brockport students after they are gone. "It's a comforting feeling to know that," says Joan.
Rich points out how fulfilling their gifts are. "The endowed scholarships are really gifts that keep on giving," Rich says. He and Joan keep in touch with their scholarship recipients, visiting when the former students return to Brockport, and following their careers and growth of their families.
"Being around young people keeps us young," says Joan.