In the business world, a united board and leadership can fuel company growth and fulfill a mission. The same can be applied to philanthropy, in that charitable decisions made jointly and collaboratively between spouses can enrich the giving experience, transforming a mundane transaction to something that is satisfying, even fulfilling.
Jennifer Hempstead, wife of Gerard '89, recently reflected on what inspires them to give back to St. Louis University High School at a benefactors' event at the school. The couple has a son, Peter, in the Class of 2017.
"Making philanthropic decisions together has been a blessing for Gerard and me," says Jennifer. "We are each called in different ways to give our gifts. It's always fun to share our ideas and passions."
"SLUH had, and continues to have, high expectations," says Gerard, managing partner of Northwestern Mutual, who has been very active at SLUH, having served on the board and sponsored Cashbah. "The school is rigorous and instills self-discipline, and this has translated well in my profession."
Following are Jennifer's inspiring remarks she made to the gathering of donors at the benefactors' event.
Why We Give
Hello, my name is Jen Hempstead. Tonight, I'm here to talk to you about why my husband and I choose to give to St. Louis University High School.
As I speak, you may occasionally notice a slight accent. That's because I'm not from St. Louis. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and moved to St. Louis to attend St. Louis University in 1989.
While at SLU, I met many great young men who had attended St. Louis University High School. I was frequently impressed by these boys. I could always tell something was different about them. They were always polite and respectful...well, almost always! Anyway, I didn't find the right boy for me during those four years at SLU.
It wasn't until I had my first job that I met Gerard, a 1989 graduate of St. Louis University High School. Gerard is kind, generous, ambitious, charming, faith-filled and extremely good-looking. All of these qualities drew me in. We were married two years later.
Early in our marriage, he spoke often about his high school-SLUH. I met many of his classmates-most of whom impressed me! I attended an all-girl Catholic high school in Louisville and enjoyed my high school years, but I never spoke of my school with the reverence Gerard and his friends did. When we had our first child, a son named Peter, Gerard would say to him as we drove past SLUH on highway 40, "Salute the school, Peter!"
Still, I thought SLUH was a good school, but was it really that great? What made it great? I knew my husband, his brother, his dad and many of his uncles had turned out all right after spending four years there, but would it be the right place for my sons someday? After all, St. Louis is filled with many all-boys Catholic schools.
Becoming Men for Others
Gerard was asked to join the board of SLUH while Peter was in preschool. This gave me a great opportunity to see the school up close and personal. For nine years, Gerard and I were blessed to represent the board by attending the annual teachers' appreciation dinner in April. Each year, tears came to my eyes as I listened to the love these SLUH co-workers shared for each other, many retiring after being at SLUH for 40+ years. Father Sheridan and Dave Laughlin would pray for the students, the teachers and the school in ways that touched my soul. The Ignatian theme of "becoming men for others" was always present.
When our son, Peter, entered the 7th grade at Incarnate Word grade school, it was time for us to start making some decisions about his future. Gerard firmly believed in SLUH. In his words to me, "It's the best-there's no other choice!" I still wasn't 100 percent sure. But, Gerard really impressed me and took Peter to all of the schools. He wanted this to be Peter's decision-just like I did.
Peter is finishing his freshman year here right now. I couldn't be any more pleased with SLUH. At every turn, I'm overwhelmed how well they are forming my young man. I'm awestruck by the opportunities he has in front of him by being a part of this wonderful institution.
Sharing Our Blessings
So...when Gerard and I discussed where we would give some of the blessings God has given us, we choose St. Louis University High School for our boys, Peter '17 and Matthew '23. We give to SLUH for my daughter, Lauren, who will meet many SLUH boys along her path. We give to SLUH for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. We give to SLUH for the teachers and staff who selflessly dedicate their lives to growing "men for others." We give to SLUH for families who cannot afford this great opportunity our sons have. And we give to SLUH for the good it does for our community.
Thank you all for your generous support of St. Louis University High School. It's people like you and the support you give that make this school so amazing! Thank you!
How You Can Help
If you are interested in supporting St. Louis University High School and all those who will benefit from that support through a planned gift, please contact Melissa Jones, CFRE at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-269-2186 today to learn about your options.