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Gary Bukowski MA, CFRE

Gary Bukowski MA, CFRE

The Night the Stars Aligned

In 2018, I had open-heart surgery at a local hospital and was attended to by some great doctors and caregivers as I recuperated. 

My Dad Was There

On the evening of June 3, as I lay in bed convalescing, I found myself remembering that it had been on June 3 in 1985 that my father died in this same hospital, just shy of his 61st birthday. I was thinking about all he had gone through and how he had met an early death because of injuries he received in the Battle of the Bulge many years earlier.  

That same evening, I was speaking with Emily, my nurse for the night shift, and as I am by nature a curious person, I asked her where she had received her nursing degree. She said that she had started at Edinboro University but received a major scholarship in nursing that convinced her to finish at Mercyhurst College. 

Coincidentally, in my past life, I had been the VP for Institutional Advancement at Mercyhurst College where one of my passions had been to secure endowed scholarships for the many students in need of financial assistance. I couldn’t help asking Emily if she recalled the name of the scholarship she’d been so fortunate to receive years ago, and she told me it was The Martin Haas Family Scholarship.  

After a speechless moment, I told her that the Haas Family would be very pleased to know that someone so compassionate, caring, and professional had received their scholarship. I told her that more than 16 years earlier, on a rainy night in the State Dining Room at Mercyhurst, I and other members of the Advancement team had asked Martin Hass for his and his family’s support for this scholarship that she had received. Both of us were amazed and moved. What was the likelihood that she would be caring for a guy who could tell her such a story?  

But There’s More

In 2002 our trustee Bob Miller had proposed a Million Dollar Challenge to build the Scholarship Endowment at Mercyhurst North East, hoping to enhance our ability to help more students. Because of Bob’s challenge, The Martin Hass Family Scholarship was doubled, making it a significant endowed scholarship. That scholarship would eventually make a difference in Emily’s life and in the lives of many others who received it, helping them finish their nursing degrees and launch their professional careers.  

Bob Miller passed away three days before my surgery, and I regretted not being able to pay my respects, but I felt that I paid him a different kind of tribute by asking Emily all my questions and uncovering the significant part Bob had played in her life. It was meaningful for me to be able to tell Emily about Bob and to witness this caring nurse living out her professional dream that had been helped by our fundraising efforts years ago. As I tell younger fundraisers, it takes time for our efforts to mature, and you need to stick around in your job for a while to experience special moments like these that show you how you touched someone’s life!  

On another June 3rd, this time in 2004, Bill Sturtevant, one of my fundraising colleagues, shared with me this quote by theologian D. Elton Trueblood: 

“It takes a noble person to plant a tree that will one day provide shade for those whom he may never meet.” 

I was very fortunate to meet someone who benefited from the generosity of such noble persons, and I even had the great pleasure of sitting under that philanthropic shade tree. 

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.