Temple University is a catalyst within the local arts and culture communities, having rallied support behind numerous projects of relevance.
So when the opportunity arose for Temple to raise awareness of the state of music education in the School District of Philadelphia, Robert Blackson—director of exhibitions and public programs at Temple University's Tyler School of Art and director of Temple Contemporary—did everything possible to ensure Symphony for a Broken Orchestra got the backing it deserved.
"Our mission at Temple Contemporary is to address today's issues of urgency and foster social engagement and debate," says Blackson. "Symphony for a Broken Orchestra fit that criteria."
Temple's distinctive, ambitious project was recognized through major funding from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, which convened a panel of national experts to determine awardees, as well as additional support from the Barra Foundation.
What began as a drive to collect 1,000 broken and abandoned instruments owned by the School District of Philadelphia resulted in a thought-provoking art exhibition that impacted Temple students from all disciplines—from art majors who drew the instruments' shapes and forms to Boyer students who played and cataloged the instruments. The exhibition served as a unique, immersive learning experience that inspired viewers to find a way to impact the future of music programs in public schools.
In December 2017, 400 instruments were played in a symphony led by Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer David Lang. From there, the instruments will be professionally repaired and returned to schools, proving that anything broken is indeed restorable.
"Our mission at Temple Contemporary is to address today's issues of urgency and foster social engagement and debate. Symphony for a Broken Orchestra certainly fit that criteria."
As broadcasting legend, Temple adjunct professor and longtime philanthropist Lew Klein knows, the news never sleeps.
This, however, wasn't quite the case for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a student-run broadcast that covers stories from Philadelphia's underserved neighborhoods. Every summer, this hyper-local news program went dark, leaving nascent broadcasters, writers and producers without access to a hands-on multimedia hub. But as recent journalism graduate and Philadelphia native Brianna Spause, KLEIN '17 explains, this summer hiatus had far greater implications.
"Life continues in these neighborhoods when students are on break," says the freelance journalist and photographer. "People turn to Philadelphia Neighborhoods as a reliable source to find out what is happening in their communities, and they deserve fair and accurate coverage all year long."
Thanks to a generous three-year investment provided by Lew Klein—after whom the College of Media and Communication is named—and his wife Janet, Philadelphia Neighborhoods now produces year-round coverage. With this gift, the Kleins have provided a means for their successors to gain what they call "the invaluables": self-confidence, contacts, camaraderie and work ethic. With this support, Temple journalists reap those rewards and more.
"There are so many incredible individuals in this city and around the world with a story to tell. My job is to listen, make connections and tell the story of others with the hope that it resonates with at least one person," says Spause. "If sharing these stories helps one person realize their pain was not in vain, or that they have room to grow and the resources to do it, then I have done my job."
"Steve and I are passionate about social justice because everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the freedoms our Constitution espouses. The work of the Center is to champion the oppressed and serve as an advocate as they rediscover their voice."
Stephen and Sandy Sheller have shown their lifelong dedication and passion for addressing gaps in access to civil justice for society's most vulnerable—in the most powerful of ways. Through their substantial personal gift of $1.5 million to Temple University Beasley School of Law, students have the opportunity to gain real-world exposure and experience at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice, where faculty and students engage in innovative research, advocate for community needs and develop strategies that have a broad and lasting impact. Marginalized populations who are facing barriers to justice and structural impediments to inequality are provided with sound legal solutions, empowering them to overcome these obstacles.
Named for local plaintiff's attorney Stephen Sheller and his wife Sandra, the Sheller Center partners with nonprofit organizations and city agencies to identify and address urgent social justice needs in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. The Center has already demonstrated success in substantial policy reform.
With the Shellers' generosity, the Center was created to foster meaningful civic change—from remedying unsafe housing and tenant rights reform to proposing more inclusive financial-aid legislation to addressing barriers to justice for non-English speakers and a statewide teach-in for immigration rights to protecting the rights of working- poor families of incarcerated juveniles and children illegally detained.
Steve and Sandy's gift and the Sheller Center's advocacy has advanced the Beasley School as a leader in legal education while furthering Temple's commitment to assist the community in which it thrives. In order to sustain its mission and expand to better serve the community, new major donor giving opportunities are available. Support the Sheller Center today, and help carry on Steve and Sandy's vision.
"The quality of law students at Temple is terrific. They've demonstrated a commitment to the region and to advancing issues most relevant to it. This hands-on experience helps them understand that their mission is to help people. They're not here to write briefs, but to support those in need and to transform the communities they work in."
As any college student knows, lecture halls and labs only take you so far. Experience in the real world is key, as that's where prerequisites morph into passions. Just ask Temple engineers, who have access to numerous opportunities to put their technical knowledge to work, thanks in part to Temple's community of donors.
This support enabled Temple's chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to expand upon a clean water project in Saccha, Peru. In January 2017, a team of four students, a civil engineering professor, a professional engineer and two translators traveled to this remote agricultural village to assess its water resources and start the process of building a sustainable water distribution system. EWB members like Zachary Klee got a firsthand look at how engineering can improve the quality of life and economic viability of a community.
"I'm so grateful for the generosity and support of donors," says Klee. "Being able to use my engineering knowledge to help others has been life-changing. Seeing gratitude on the faces of the people of Saccha was the moment this project changed from an engineering problem to a mission."
Temple's Society of Women Engineers (SWE) also had the opportunity to apply their education outside the classroom. Thanks to dozens of online donations, SWE was able to host Girls! Be That Engineer!—a day devoted to introducing elementary, middle and high school students to various engineering disciplines. While local K–12 students got a taste of what it's like to pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Temple students got a taste of what it's like to serve as role models for the next generation of engineers.
Temple alumna Dr. Sandra Harmon- Weiss, CLA '71, MED '74, and former tenured Associate Professor and Associate Dean at the Kornberg School of Dentistry Richard Weiss may now reside at the Jersey Shore, but that doesn't mean their commitment to Temple has receded with the tide. In fact, as their recent legacy gift proves, the couple remains committed to supporting the University no matter where life takes them.
Motivated by the fact that fewer and fewer students choose primary medicine as their designated field, the Weisses established the Emma C. Weiss Memorial Scholarship to support those pursuing careers in this indispensable area of care.
"The average student graduates from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine $203,000 in debt. We hope to alleviate that, as much as we can," says Harmon-Weiss. Her husband agrees.
"How could I argue with Sandy's desire to establish an endowment that not only goes on in perpetuity, but is named after my mother?" says Weiss, a longtime supporter of Temple athletics and current Chair of the Kornberg School's Board of Visitors.
Prior to serving on the Temple University Board of Trustees, as Chair of the Board of Visitors for the Katz School of Medicine and with her husband on the Kornberg School of Dentistry's Board of Visitors, Dr. Harmon-Weiss operated a family practice in Conshohocken for nearly 15 years, tending to both urban and suburban populations. There it became evident just how critical it is for communities to have access to primary care, particularly now when these communities face a shortage of PCPs.
Over time, the Weisses' legacy gift will not only help to repopulate a shrinking talent pool, but also reinforce the clinical landscape of in-need communities—and that's a boost aspiring physicians and the underserved dually need.
"Temple has been really, really good to us. This scholarship has become our favorite philanthropy—we enjoy ensuring students will have a wonderful Temple education. It's the most uplifting contribution we can make."
When it comes to the relationships Mitchell (CLA '74) and Debra Sonkin have forged with Temple students over the years, every definition of the word investment applies.
"What Debra and I give back to Temple goes beyond our checkbook and extends to time, skills and expertise," says Mitchell Sonkin, CLA '74. "Students gain a lot from hearing about our life experiences as they prepare to set off upon the world and face its challenges."
Student-athletes in particular have benefited from the Sonkins' many investments in Temple over the past few years, including the couple's funding of the athletic multipurpose room commonly known as the Owl's Nest, which overlooks the Edberg-Olson football practice facility.
More recently, the Sonkins have established an endowed scholarship for political science majors who are considering law school. It's no coincidence that, as a first-generation college attendee and law school graduate, Mitchell's background mirrors that of scholarship recipients. His and Debra's goal is to ensure these promising young lawyers seize their futures with less debt and more opportunity.
"Student loans are but one source," says Mitchell. "Students need scholarship and grant programs as well. As an alumnus, it was an easy choice for me to support Temple because Temple supported me."
Committed to staying close with those they support, the Sonkins regularly meet with current and former scholarship recipients and student-athletes.
"Debra and I want to bring Temple students together because human connection is important," says Mitchell. "It's wonderful to watch them relate to and rely on one another. Through this scholarship, we are instilling in them a sense of 'pay it forward,' and that really is at the heart of our mission."
"As a Temple undergraduate, I was taught how to think and how to be an advocate for what I believe to be right and true. It served as a solid foundation for me before pursuing law and business. Early on, I knew I would one day give back."
Few possess the courage to think like an entrepreneur, let alone do so in the midst of a college career. The exception: Temple business students.
Big, bold thinking has become table stakes at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) at the Fox School of Business and is perhaps never more evident than during the annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl, a campus-wide competition that encourages Temple's nest to ideate, network and write strategic business plans.
Part of the reason why the Be Your Own Boss Bowl can award over $400,000 to winners to help launch their startups is because of benefactors like Lori Bush, FOX '85. This past year, the former president and CEO of Rodan + Fields established a generous seed fund to support the IEI, with a special focus on women entrepreneurs.
"Female entrepreneurs have a much more diffcult time procuring venture funding," says Bush. "But as more and more women break through and model successful paradigms, they will pave the way for future generations."
Such breakout successes include Bush herself, who catapulted Rodan + Fields from a niche skincare brand to a booming social-commerce operation in less than a decade. With her gift to her alma mater, Bush not only passes the torch on to the next generation of entrepreneurs—ensuring they have access to the tools and experiences they need to succeed—but also serves as a fitting example of how though you may leave Temple, Temple never truly leaves you.
"Over the past two decades, I not only found great returns, but also great joy in operating in a marketing channel that was powered by the passion of micro-entrepreneurs. Endowing an entrepreneurship program is a way of supporting both Temple's Fox School of Business and the values that have been meaningful in my career and in my life.
I support Temple's Fox School of Business as my way of paying forward the rewards I've enjoyed from my business career which, in large part, was launched while I was a graduate student at Temple."
The Lewis Katz School of Medicine has a legacy of supporting the local community. Whether its medical students are mentoring youth in science at nearby elementary schools or providing basic health screenings to the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, Temple's prestigious medical institution demonstrates an ongoing capacity for service.
And so, this past year, it only made sense for the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and Temple University Hospital to partner with St. Christopher's Foundation for Children and the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative in providing seasonal produce and health education to North Philadelphia families, many of whom live below the poverty line and suffer from chronic diseases due to lack of access to healthy food and information on nutrition. With a FreshRx "prescription" from a Temple doctor, families can buy fresh, organic produce and learn how to sustain healthy habits in a community hub near their doctor's office.
Impressed with Temple's commitment to help improve and sustain the wellbeing of the surrounding community and foster a culture of health, local philanthropist and longtime friend of Temple University Hospital, Jerry Burton, wanted to support Farm to Families, too. "How could I not want to be involved?" says Burton.
"Providing families with fresh fruits and vegetables—things that most of us take for granted—felt right and made sense." Known for inspiring others to give, Burton stepped up to provide a matching gift to motivate others to join in this effort as well.
Since its inception, Temple has raised nearly $82,000 for Farm to Families, thanks to 520 donors who, like Burton, felt compelled to support an important local cause.
"If the old adage 'you are what you eat' still holds, then we have some healthier friends in the Temple neighborhood today," says Burton. "How cool is that?"
Given this initiative's success and the ongoing need in the community, Jerry has committed to opening his network even further and securing funding for the project's next iteration. This comprehensive partnership between community stakeholders, neighborhood families and Temple Health will address the social determinants of health while ensuring all Philadelphians have the capacity to be healthy.
"Temple is doing transformative work. It's rewriting the rules of what it means to be a big city hospital. Its relationship with the community it serves is built on trust and respect, and could serve as a model for the entire nation."
Patrick J. O'Connor
Chairman, Board of Trustees
PATRICK J. O'CONNOR
It's the best way to describe the year Temple just had.
Over the past twelve months, we broke into and steadily climbed numerous national rankings and received more freshman applications than ever before. On top of all that, we released another 9,519 Owls into the world, our largest class in University history.
These record-breaking achievements reached a pinnacle when our supporters gave in historic numbers, surpassing our previous fundraising record by more than $6 million. Whether funding a center for social justice, backing fervent young entrepreneurs and engineers or underscoring the importance of music education in public schools, our supporters generously gave from a place of "we are connected," and in turn, became part of a unique community unto themselves.
As we look to the challenges in the year ahead, we find reason for great optimism in our philanthropic community—and a strong resolve to do more. Thank you for being a part of the fellowship of Temple. Together we can do just about anything.
Richard M. Englert
RICHARD M. ENGLERT
On campus or off, along the East Coast or 5,000 miles from it: you'll feel the Temple effect no matter where you go.
Part of that is because we have 320,000 alumni worldwide, in addition to thousands of parents, friends, faculty and staff. And while our reach spans 50 states and 147 countries, our community-at-large remains committed to keeping Temple's legacy intact.
You are the reason why diversity, grit and determination have permeated and positively impacted communities worldwide. You are the reason why our University amassed historic totals in giving last year.
And yet, I know this is just the beginning. Together, let's ride this incredible momentum into the coming year. Thank you for all you've done; tomorrow, let's soar even further.