A Trailblazer For Women’s Philanthropy

By Editorial Staff Writer

3 Minutes to Read

Christine LodewickWhen Christine Lodewick ’67 MA was a child in Wisconsin, life was different for women, especially when it came to finances. Women were expected to take care of the house and children while men earned the money and decided how to spend it. Outside the home, they volunteered their “time, talent, and treasure” to meet the needs of the community, but rarely shared equal influence in public with men who contributed cash.

Women’s emergence as philanthropists

It wasn’t until the late 1980’s when Christine became involved with efforts to secure private funds for her alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that she began to see things differently. Both the civil rights and the women’s movements in the 1960’s and 1970’s had encouraged women to become more aware of their need to increase control of their financial resources. Despite the fact that women donors had been contributing for years, most development officers did not acknowledge their philanthropic potential. They believed that women’s financial resources were too insignificant to deserve their attention—that men “made” the money and the financial decisions. But they also believed that women donors themselves took too much time for they asked many questions and wanted many details about projects that interested them.

Finally, in 1988, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Foundation, under the leadership of Martha Taylor, formed the UW Women’s Philanthropy Council (WPC). The University became the first co-educational public university in the United States to officially take women seriously as major donors. In 1991, the Wisconsin leaders asked others to join them from across the country to create the national Women’s Philanthropic Institute (WPI) to increase women’s philanthropy to all causes. The potential power of women’s giving was finally becoming apparent and appreciated!

Women’s philanthropy concepts spread nationally, globally

WPI started at the UW-Madison, evolved into a national nonprofit, and then joined the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. It has become a think tank that investigates how and why gender matters in giving decisions and this research lends legitimacy and importance to the concept of women’s philanthropy. Recently WPI discovered that women give more than men annually and nearly 70 percent of philanthropic decision-making in couples is made solely or equally by the woman in the couple.

Christine enthusiastically accepted an invitation to join both the new WPC and WPI where she became an active member of a generous and committed group of cohorts. These women realized that the term “philanthropy” applied to a financial gift of any size, as long as it was used strategically for the greatest possible benefit; they were enthusiastic about becoming more effective in making their own individual and collaborative “investments” to improve the world. Networking about their own experiences, frustrations, and successes with each other tended to increase the size of their generous gifts as well. This approach was a welcome activity for donors that had often been warned that discussing their finances with others was “unladylike” and “unwise” previously. These new insights about women’s giving spread nationally and then globally, resulting in the growth of women’s philanthropy programs and giving circles around the world.

UConn’s slow start

Because of these insightful experiences with the UW-Madison’s Women’s Philanthropy Council, Christine attempted to initiate a women’s philanthropy group at UConn early in 2004 but the idea did not take hold. The concept lacked the enthusiastic backing or leadership necessary from many segments of the university at that time. However just over a year ago, she and a few others tried again. This time their efforts succeeded and the new UConn Women and Philanthropy group was formed. The group is still in its infancy but has already raised nearly $500,000—enough to award nine scholarships for female UConn students in its first year.

The group has recruited 125 alumnae and members from across the campus who have donated from $10 to $200,000. Now UConn Women and Philanthropy hopes to expand across the country with chapters starting in Washington D.C., Chicago, California, and New York.  “It’s been wonderful that many women have contributed generously and joined the group,” Christine said. “These women are experiencing the joy of giving by enabling UConn students to succeed and university programs to thrive through their philanthropic leadership.”

From dairy farm to Ridgefield, Conn.

Christine was reared on a dairy farm in a small Wisconsin town and was the first in her family to attend college. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison ’65, she moved to Connecticut to earn a master’s degree in speech pathology at UConn ’67, MA. There she met her husband Philip Lodewick ’66 (BUS), ’67 MBA, ’14H. After Philip completed his army service, they married in 1969 and moved to a sprawling farmhouse in Ridgefield in 1978. Here they reared their two daughters, Alyssa and Kendra, as well as several horses and golden retrievers.

Christine worked as a speech pathologist while Philip launched his own business, The Tradewell Corp., a middle-market equipment leasing company. They have been philanthropic partners and benefactors to many organizations including UConn, where they have established four endowments and led numerous committees for campus projects—including Philip’s chairing of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership’s building of Storrs Center. The Philip and Christine Lodewick Visitor Center is named in their honor.

For now, Christine’s major focus at UConn is encouraging the launch of the new philanthropy program, UConn Women and Philanthropy. She concludes, “It is exciting to see the slow but steady increase in opportunities for women to find ways to fulfill their passion to contribute both individually and collaboratively with men in helping to create a better world.”

Find out more about UConn Women and Philanthropy

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