Lindy Donates $15 million for Civic Engagement
This spring, philanthropist Philip B. Lindy pledged a $15-million gift in support of Drexel’s Center for Civic Engagement, which is part of the Pennoni Honors College. In recognition of his support, Drexel will name the center for Lindy.
“Phil Lindy shares Drexel’s commitment to effecting positive change in this city that offers so much to our students, faculty, and professional staff,” said President John A. Fry. “We have set a goal to become the most civically engaged university in the nation, and Phil’s gift will move us closer to achieving that.”
“Because of the Lindy Center, hundreds – even thousands – of Philadelphians’ lives will be made better,” said Lindy, who has had a long career as property manager, investor, and contractor, and is a partner with Lindy Property Management, a third-generation family-run firm. “I’m just thrilled that my own success is enabling me to provide the resources for a Center that will become a model across the nation for universities and communities wanting to work together to improve their neighborhoods, their cities, and our world.”
Dan Dougherty, executive director of the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement, took some time to answer a few questions about civic engagement and Lindy’s gift, and their significance to the University.
What does Philip Lindy’s gift mean to Drexel and the Honors College?
It allows Drexel to achieve its goals of being the most civically engaged university in the United States and to promote more civic engagement initiatives that are intentional, comprehensive and sustainable to be sure the University has positive impact from local to global issues.
For the Honors College, it insures our role as a leader in community-based experiential learning and as innovators in higher education programming. Through the financial support of this gift, the Lindy Center will expand its support of academic programming including research and teaching opportunities, and expand the types of community partnerships and student leadership positions that lead to transformational public service experiences.
Lindy has already been a supporter of CCE programs, in particular the Lindy Scholars, a tutoring and mentoring program for Philadelphia schoolchildren. Can you discuss the work that’s been done so far?
The Lindy Scholars program was established in 2008 to provide educational enhancement in math and reading literacy for elementary school students in West Philadelphia. This June represents the completion of the second full year of programming with 6th and 7th grade students, their families, and their teachers and schools. We currently partner upwards of 75 Drexel students, including many Honors students, with 150 middle school students in afterschool tutoring activities at their schools and mentoring activities every other Saturday at Drexel. We also facilitate family outreach and information workshops, and work to support teachers at our three partnering schools. The overall goal of the program is to offer a comprehensive approach to working with school kids, their families, and teachers so their potential can be fully realized and Drexel can be a responsible institution contributing to community development in Philadelphia.
Can you talk a little about Phil Lindy as a philanthropist? What do you believe drives his philanthropy?
That is a tough question. Phil is very modest and rarely talks about what drives him because he wants the focus to be on the programs. That said, Phil has a wonderful combination of a great head and a big heart, meaning that he both understands the issues and situations his gifts seek to engage. He has a deep belief and desire in promoting fairness and opportunity for everyone.
I believe at least part of his desire to help others comes from his own experiences in life. He has shared with me several times the story of how he got into college and set the basis for his successful career: Always humble, he says he was an average student in high school in Philadelphia, but that adults in his life saw his potential and opened up opportunities so that he could thrive in school and in life. Therefore, I think he sees himself in many of the Philadelphians he seeks to help through his gifts.
President Fry has made civic engagement a focus at Drexel. How would you define civic engagement, and why is it important for a university?
My working definition of civic engagement is taking part in the public life of the community on issues of public concern.
For the most part at Drexel, this has translated into direct service activities, teaching and research. Universities have an educational mission and as part of that mission are responsible for educating well-rounded students and supporting faculty who are informed about and involved with myriad issues affecting the public life of their communities, country, and world.
However, universities also have institutional priorities that make them public actors in their communities; it is these priorities that also can translate into being civically engaged. For example, hiring and recruitment practices, purchasing, housing initiatives, and attention to quality of life issues are all ways that universities can take part in the public life of the community on issues of public concern.
This is explicit in President Fry’s vision for Drexel and the surrounding neighborhoods. A priority of the Lindy Center is to support bringing these two sides of university civic engagement together so that we are a responsible institutional citizen at the same time as we support and promote a responsible educational mission.