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INTERVIEW: Mary Apied of Trinity College

Published by Newsweek on 1998-02-01

Mary Apied, executive director of the Trinity Foundation at Trinity College Dublin, is a highly accomplished fundraiser for the 407-year-old college. An alumnus of Trinity, she has raised more than $100 million for Trinity over the last four years; and she has helped the college establish numerous innovative academic programs, including the Chaim Herzog Center for Jewish Studies. She met with Newsweek's Pranay Gupte in Dublin recently. Excerpts:

Why was your foundation created?
Trinity College is the first and only constituent College of the University of Dublin which was established under royal charter in 1592 using the Oxbridge model. Despite the fact that it is a private institution vested in its Provost, Fellows and Scholars, Trinity has become heavily dependent on state funding and has grown its student body from 3,000 in the late 70s to more than 12,000 in the late '90s. The combination of radically increased student numbers, the subsequent strain on ageing infrastructure and the knowledge explosion of the late 20th century created a need for a huge injection of money in order to allow Trinity to maintain its place as a leading academic institution in a world context. The leadership within the College realized that government funding was always going to be insufficient and created Trinity Foundation as a vehicle for developing philanthropic support for Trinity College.

What new approaches to international fundraising have you pursued?
In the last four years Trinity Foundation has been a match-maker in developing genuine and productive relationships between Trinity College and individuals and corporations who are committed to the advancement of education. The leadership provided by these enlightened philanthropists has also made it possible for the Irish Government to introduce the concept of public/private partnerships for funding infra-structural and research initiatives in the university sector. These symbiotic relationships acknowledge the key role played by education in the development of a country's economy. Private philanthropists are also showing leadership in helping to provide equality of access to education.

Do you have a special approach to fundraising?
Investment in education is an investment in the sound economic and social future of a country. It is not the responsibility of Government alone. There are numerous stakeholders. Ireland is a small English-speaking country strategically placed between mainland Europe and North America. Down through the centuries, education has always been highly valued in Ireland and pursued often under adverse circumstances. We missed the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century but we have found our position in the global economy of knowledge-based industry. We have a large multi national presence in Ireland, particularly in the technology and financial sectors. Part of the attraction of Ireland for these companies is the availability of a highly educated young population. The academic community in Trinity College with Trinity Foundation would together seek to develop partnerships with the corporate sector for specific developments which ultimately will benefit the corporations. Many multinational companies who make vast profits in Ireland actively seek opportunities to demonstrate enlightened philanthropy in the environment in which they make their profits.

How are you taking your fundraising efforts beyond Ireland?
We exist in a global village, a global economy. Education has also become internationalized. Today there is increasing mobility among students. Competition among universities for the best graduate students is international. Recruitment of the best graduates by big corporations is also an international activity. My point is that Trinity College is of international relevance therefore support for Trinity College is relevant to a very wide international audience.

But explains Ireland's appeal to potential donors, especially in the business community?
Ireland itself has a very small population--3.5 million--and yet it has made a significant contribution to the global community. Trinity College alone, down through the centuries, can count among its graduates major contributors to world knowledge in philosophy, the arts and the sciences. Down through the ages the Irish left Ireland as intellectual missionaries or as poor emigrants who become the unskilled laborers of the English speaking world. In the last decades Ireland's biggest export has been brainpower. Now, at the close of the 20th century emigration is more a question of choice. The Irish diaspora populates the globe. Many members of this diaspora have been very successful and have a deep sense of their Irish roots. Many have looked at Ireland with sadness during the turmoil of the last thirty years. Many have chosen education in Ireland as the focus of their philanthropic interest and their way of helping Ireland in a sustainable, long-term way. Trinity College, with its liberal, pluralist tradition has captured a lot of this interest.

How do you see your ties with the United States?
Our focus in the last four years has been very much on the United States and has been successful because, I think, we captured a mood. Irish movies have won Oscars. Irish authors have been topping The New York Times best-seller lists. An Irish poet recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The last four years have been a wonderful time for Ireland and we have taken a position on the world stage in many, many different areas.

So how do these ties affect your work?
Many of our donors in the United States are the first generation of their families to have reached positions of wealth and influence in corporate life. They have reached these positions because of education and their education was a result of the sacrifices and hard struggle of their parents and grandparents. We've also been very lucky in that we benefitted greatly from an organization called The American-Ireland Fund. It has grown to be a major organization right across the United States and also worldwide. We have worked very closely with this organization. Its CEO, Kingsley Aikins, is a graduate of this institution and its Chairman Dr A.J. F. O'Reilly, is one of our Pro-Chancellors.

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist


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