Q&A: Passing It On
Through Senior Class Gift, St. Louis native Justin Nicks (BSBA’13) continues his family’s tradition of philanthropy
“Some people have a hard time believing that even a smaller gift has an impact,” says Olin senior Justin Nicks, “but it absolutely does!”
How old were you the first time you donated to an organization?
My dad’s a Baptist minister, and I learned early on the importance of giving ten percent to help benefit the community. At the age of ten, when I earned my first paycheck mowing lawns, I donated.
You’re both a donor to and a fundraiser for the Senior Class Gift initiative. How did you get into raising money for the university?
A couple of years ago, some other students and I did a fundraiser in honor of the late Dean [James] McLeod. We sold cookies to help fund the relay team. It felt great to pitch in and see that immediate impact.
Why should students give to Wash U?
Tuition covers only 60% of the cost to educate undergraduate students on the Danforth Campus—that seems to sink in when we tell fellow students. I’ll say, “Picture your classroom. A significant number of your classmates receive some form of financial aid, and imagine if more than half of them were just gone. If it weren’t for donors giving back, we’d have a lot less opportunity to learn and grow.”
Where did your Senior Class Gift go?
Half of my gift went to Olin, and half went to the engineering school (I started off there as a freshman, then transferred).
When you picture the impact of your giving, what comes to mind?
I picture another student going to class, facing the same struggles that most students face, maybe not knowing that some of their financial aid might have come from students and alumni. But it’s fine with me if they don’t know it’s my money that helped—as long as it’s helping. I’m just glad they’re here.
For anyone who feels a connection and feels like the university gave them something during their years here, it’s very small to ask that they give back in some capacity. We tend to overlook the value of our degree, the value the university has provided us. As my dad tells his congregation, everything helps.
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