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Alumnus Strategizes Giving Approach

December 4, 2017 | By Anne Kniggendorf (SF97)

Katherine Rees (A17) and John Rees (A74) celebrate Katherine’s graduation in May.

When John Rees (A74) was a high school senior in the 1970s, he couldn’t figure out where he wanted to go to college. His parents sent him to Loren Pope, author of Colleges that Change Lives and founder of the College Placement Bureau.

After talking for four hours, Pope gave Rees a list of 10 or 12 schools, but said St. John’s College was the most likely place Rees would choose. He was right.

Forty-three years later, Rees is still a big fan of his alma mater—and so are his brother David (A90) and his daughter Katherine (A17). For Rees, the college has changed his life and continues to influence it today.

“I’ve decided to give back to the college,” he explains. “And I’ve chosen to do so in a way that will help the college engage in long-term planning.”

Rees has recently made a five-year pledge to St. John’s, which allows the school to have a revenue stream that is guaranteed for several years into the future. It’s a giving approach that allows the donor to plan too, and to spread the gift’s impact out over time.

Rees quips that in comparison to his daughter’s tuition, his pledge doesn’t look very big. Nevertheless, he thinks the school will be able to better use his contribution if they know when and what to expect. Until recently his giving has been sporadic.

Now a neuroradiologist in Sarasota, Florida, as well as a fulltime assistant professor at the University of Florida-Gainesville, Rees feels that St. John’s was the ideal undergraduate degree for a doctor.

“A doctor needs nothing else than to be a lifelong learner who’s possessed of critical thinking,” he explains. “Much of what we learn (in medical school) is continuing to be remodeled and reanalyzed and reshaped, and a physician needs to be a humanist, needs to be able to see the end potential of the human species and needs to be a critical scientist.”

However, he acknowledges that many professionals say the same of their St. John’s educations, regardless of their area of expertise. His brother, David, is an attorney who was well-prepared by St. John’s for his career path.

The Rees brothers have discussed their St. John’s education often. Rees says David has even nailed down what kinds of people should be Johnnies.

Rees explains his brother’s take: “There’s one type who really could not go anywhere else. They wouldn’t fit in, they would not be happy at a typical university, and St. John’s is not only the right place for them, but the only place for them. The other category of people who should be going to St. John’s, by David’s formulation, is everyone.”

While many Johnnies would both be thrilled and horrified if every human being could be counted among their ranks, Rees puts the idea into perspective: “Every single person in this world has something to teach me, and maybe I have something to teach them.”

So, for 22 years he’s learned from his friends in a DC area alumni seminar group which has been working its way through the 1974 seminar reading list—now that he lives in Florida, he mostly participates in these seminars digitally.

The nature of humans, he says, which is nurtured so well at St. John’s, is that we’re collaborative and we have both individual and collective experiences that are embodied in our culture. This collaboration is something he’s not sure he would have thought about, nor known how to benefit from, had it not been for St. John’s College.

Discussions with those who’ve shared the same experience—like the experience of reading a great book—he says, “is one of the best ways to take advantage of that mutual enrichment process which is human culture.”

Make an online gift to St. John’s College.

To make a multi-year pledge, contact Leo Pickens at leo.pickens(at)sjc.edu.

To share your giving story, contact Anne Kniggendorf at akknigg(at)gmail.com.