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Campus News

UAlbany Undergraduate Helps Other Students

by Carol Olechowski

For 21-year-old UAlbany student Robert Wann Jr., philanthropy is a way of life. He learned it from his parents.

As a teenager, the senior business major did volunteer work for non-profit organizations, such as nursing homes. His parents, Robert Sr. and Shirley, “worked hard to get to where we are today. Along the way, they taught me to be fair and to help others.”

Two years ago, in an effort to contribute more to society and “help out by whatever means we could,” the Wanns launched The Wann Family Foundation to benefit educational and humanitarian causes, including soup kitchens, The Salvation Army, Christian Children’s Fund, The Smile Train, local libraries, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. One of their favorite causes happens to be the University at Albany. Through the foundation, Wann and his parents are “helping the University attract and keep dedicated students.” Their recent $42,000 gift set up two scholarship endowments to support scholars majoring in finance/marketing and East Asian studies. UAlbany is the first educational institution to receive a donation from the family, Wann notes. The first students to receive the merit-based scholarships will be selected this spring.

Since he himself came to the University as a Presidential Scholar, the cause of supporting students is one near and dear to his heart. The foundation vice president and treasurer recalls, “I was very honored to be offered the Presidential Scholarship.” After a visit to campus, Wann, who “was interested in business” and had been accepted to several private universities, decided to enroll at the University, “a great school,” instead. He majors in business with a concentration in finance and marketing.

Wann, who serves as vice president and treasurer of his family’s foundation and sits on the board, appreciates the knowledge he has gained during his four years at UAlbany. In fact, he points out, some of the things he has learned in his finance classes “have been useful to me in managing money” for the foundation. There was also a social aspect to his studies: Small class sizes made it possible for him to get to know the faculty. “I developed friendships with professors, especially William Danko [who chairs the Department of Marketing and is an associate professor] and Susanna Fessler, [associate professor and chair of the Department of East Asian Studies]. I was truly impressed by their teaching.” The Wanns endowed the scholarship funds in those areas, says the business major, who also has a concentration in finance and marketing, “because of the professors and their programs.

“I went to see Professor Danko, who has made his own gift to the University,” adds Wann. The co-author of the best-selling The Millionaire Next Door established the Milton and Mary M. Danko Golden Rule Award several years ago in his parents’ memory. Danko suggested that his student consult with University Advancement staff, “then Jim [Ebenhoch, senior major gifts officer] and I met. I had sole responsibility for initiating this process,” says Wann, a native of New York City.

While furthering his family’s philanthropic interests, Wann is looking ahead to post-graduate study and a career in corporate law. He has already been accepted at the University of Maryland and St. John’s, and has also applied to Yale Law, Washington and Lee, and several other schools. In addition, he is spending the semester as an intern in the Legislative Office Building headquarters of 3rd District New York State Senator Caesar Trunzo. Wann, who is earning 15 academic credits for the internship, does research and performs other duties for the Suffolk County legislator and his constituents.

Is politics in Wann’s future? “Hey, you never know,” the Presidential Honors Society member answers with a slight smile. For now, his interests in The Wann Family Foundation and its causes, his internship, and the prospect of graduate study in law are enough to keep him busy.