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Colgate dedicates Max Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education

By Mark Walden on April 10, 2013
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COVE dedication

Jonah Shacknai ’78 (right) talks with Charlotte Arbogast ’16, team leader for North Broad Street Tutoring — a group that tutors in grades 1 and 2 at a low-income school in Oneida. (Photo by Alice Virden-Speer)

There’s a new sign on the door at Colgate’s Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE).

On March 22, campus community members gathered to reassert the center’s mission as it became the Max Shacknai COVE, named in memory of Max Shacknai, son of Jonah Shacknai ’78.

For all of the words of thanks and commendation spoken during the dedication, the Max Shacknai COVE has a “show me, don’t tell me” legacy that was reaffirmed by Jonah Shacknai himself. Speaking to students, faculty, and staff, he reminded them that, “as we look around our world — as we look around our community — no matter what our luck, we have the opportunity to take stock, realize that we have great fortune, and with that great fortune, great responsibility.”

Dr. Elizabeth Levine-Brown ’01 and Adam Weinberg, former dean of the college, started the COVE in 2001. Since then, it has become a thriving operation that provides 30,000 hours of community service work every year.

Six staffers support more than 800 students who participate in sustained volunteerism. Six COVE alternative break trips give more than 60 students the chance to volunteer around the globe. Every year, 40 first-year students arrive on campus for service work before move-in day — thanks to the COVE, their Colgate careers begin by helping others in need.

The COVE partners with the chaplains office to encourage interfaith service and offers grant-writing sessions for campus community members. It also coordinates a longstanding seminar program that brings area high school students to campus to engage with undergraduates and faculty through specially designed courses.

Alongside these traditional activities, the COVE recently launched a new social innovation initiative in cooperation with the Thought Into Action Institute and the Robert A. Fox ’59 Leadership Institute. The goal is to harness the entrepreneurial spirit on campus and provide students with the tools they need to bring social impact into the for-profit sector after graduation.

“As we come together today, there never has been a more important time for the work of this program,” said Suzy Nelson, dean of the college. “There has never been a more important time for Colgate to recommit to its core value of service to others.”

Colgate’s commitment has been made possible through annual gifts and a new endowment established by Shacknai. “Jonah’s support allows us to re-envision the next phase in the life of the Max Shacknai COVE,” said center director Krista Saleet. “It allows us to prepare the next set of community leaders to make a real impact.”

Because of Shacknai’s gifts, made during Passion for the Climb: The Campaign for Colgate, the COVE is an established landmark on Colgate’s pedagogical landscape. “Participation in the greater community is part and parcel of a liberal arts education that we hope and expect that our students will receive,” said President Jeffrey Herbst. “This education will prepare students to understand how a community evolves and prospers.”

Many students see the COVE as something more. It is a place where altruism is placed under the microscope of a liberal arts education. “In recognizing the moral obligation and acting upon it,” said Kristi Carey ’15, “we show that it’s not about a goodness of heart, but rather a public responsibility.”

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