Millionaire Next Door Co-Author Honors Parents, Rewards Young Philanthropists, with 'Golden Rule' Award

Contact: Vincent Reda, 518-437-4985

The writer who told people how to get rich is rewarding those who give back.

University at Albany marketing professor William Danko, co-author of the New York Times #1 bestseller The Millionaire Next Door, has established the Milton & Mary M. Danko Golden Rule Award. It is a fully endowed scholarship given to a junior-year business student who, in Danko's words, "has demonstrated a basic pattern of giving his or her most precious resource to others - and that, of course, is time."

The endowment, administered by the University at Albany Foundation, generates $1,500 annually, and honors Danko's parents - "two people who had a history of giving to others when it seemed there was nothing left to give." The first recipient, Kathryn Leahy, who last fall performed more than 125 hours of volunteer service at Ronald McDonald House, was honored in May.

Leahy's concentration is marketing and management information systems. "She also has an impressive GPA," said Danko, "but more importantly, she has a history of giving her time to others in need."

That, for Danko, is what makes living - and wealth - worthwhile. He says "while The Millionaire Next Door reveals traits and behavioral habits of the wealthy, I tell my students, and all others who will listen, to keep money in perspective. It is not an end in itself.

"In the book, we show how 'steady as you go' can build a fortune. Eighty percent of the millionaires in this country are first generation millionaires. What this means is that many people carry with them a value system that embraces hard work and perseverance. Further, some millionaires are incredibly generous with their wealth, recognizing that they are merely temporary stewards of these resources."

Danko applies generosity to his own field of expertise. "Marketing is a very powerful tool. Essentially, it looks at the question, 'What do we have to do to extract money from people?' But, as I emphasize to my students, don't confuse making a living through marketing with the totality of who we are as human beings. I truly believe that we are all obligated to help the dispossessed - the truly needy, the alienated."

In his presentations done for not-for-profit groups that need marketing guidance, Danko includes maxims, Biblical passages, and factoids that instruct fundraisers on what motivates people to donate - beyond tax purposes, that is. He often includes a quote from the thrifty Ben Franklin - "I would rather have it said 'He lived usefully' than 'He died rich'" - and even one from the industrious Andrew Carnegie: "There is no idol more debasing than the worship of money."

He also adds for his students an example of generosity close to home: the comments of Edward and Frances Gildea George, who in 1997 donated $1 million to the University at Albany - the institution at which they met in 1934. Explaining their philanthropy, Frances Gildea George noted that the gift would go farther than a swimming pool or a Rolls Royce. Edward George added, "This is the time to give; there are no pockets in burial shrouds."

Danko found a host of other people and businesses that think similarly, and through their generous support the endowment became a reality in less than a year. In addition to the $750 given to the philanthropic student's education expenses, a matching amount of $750 is given each year to a not-for-profit organization chosen by the student that focuses on the needs of the hungry and the homeless.

This year, Kathryn Leahy designated the matching amount of $750 to benefit the Hunger Action Network of New York.

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July 12, 2001


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