Campus News

UK's First Center for Student Philanthropy Opens

UK opened its Center for Student Philanthropy with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Sept. 7.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 10, 2018) — A new center on the University of Kentucky campus aims to spread the joy of philanthropy throughout campus and the Lexington community through its innovative programming and events. The Center for Student Philanthropy is among the first of its kind in the United States and will serve as the basis for teaching students the value of philanthropy — whether it is giving charitably, volunteering or helping to organize philanthropic events.

The center officially opened Friday, Sept. 7, with a ribbon cutting in the Gatton Student Center. It is located in the Center for Student Involvement area.

“The essence of true giving — giving to those who may never know you, giving on behalf of a cause and mission larger than one’s self, giving as a way of reflecting a lifetime of service to others — is reflected across the University of Kentucky campus,” said President Eli Capilouto during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “As Kentucky’s indispensable institution, we hope to instill the spirit of philanthropy within our students — to show them how shared vision and commitment can transform lives for the better, just as their lives have been shaped by those who came before them. This center is crucial to those efforts.”

The grand opening of the Center for Student Philanthropy featured remarks from Capilouto, Vice President for Philanthropy and Chief Philanthropy Officer Mike Richey, senior political science major Kendall Hitch and graduate student and pharmacology major Kai Zhang. Both Hitch and Zhang are members of the Student Philanthropy Board, whose headquarters are in the center.

“Today is a great day, because opening this center is a realization of one of UK Philanthropy’s dreams,” Richey said. “Over the last 50 years, alumni, corporations, foundations and friends have propelled UK to greatness, strengthening its academics, research, outreach and creative pursuits through their generosity. But to continue UK’s success, we need to excite the next generation about caring for their alma mater and community.

“Many students will one day work in the nonprofit sector, now America’s third largest workforce, accounting for 11.9 million American employees,” Richey said. “In the state of Kentucky alone, 19.2 percent of recent post-secondary graduates held employment at a nonprofit. The Center for Student Philanthropy will show students the power of giving and motivate them to make a difference wherever they go.”

Using the motto "Educate. Participate. Celebrate.," the center is focused on education and engagement, offering students information about fundraising and giving and opportunities to see the benefits philanthropy can have on their community and on their own lives. 

“UK Philanthropy often partners with students for philanthropic events, and we have seen that they have a hunger to give back and to effect change in their communities,” said Susannah Denomme, associate vice president for philanthropy. “When we envisioned the center, we wanted it to be student led and student driven to fully engage students in the giving process and to show them the impact they could make. We cannot wait to see what these students accomplish.”

“We want to create a culture of philanthropy on campus, and we felt the best way to do it was to give students an immersive experience,” said Katie Sanders, assistant director of annual giving, who oversees the Center for Student Philanthropy and advises the Student Philanthropy Board. “Students who volunteer and engage in philanthropy have a more positive outlook on life and are more involved in their communities. We want these students to take ownership of UK and its advancement and to spread the joy of philanthropy throughout campus.”

The center has a resource library with books and materials about every stage of fundraising, from cultivation and solicitation to stewardship and retention. All the books were donated by authors and publishers and are available for any student or community member to read.

Students also have the opportunity for hands-on learning, serving on the Student Philanthropy Board, assisting with UK Philanthropy events or interning in the center. The newly formed Student Philanthropy Board has 27 students representing 11 colleges and programs and organizations throughout campus. It will set the programming for the center and organize philanthropic events, including dinners with donors, giving days and educational events that partner students with campus and community fundraising professionals.

“All of these students stand out, because they have already committed to making a difference,” Sanders said. “They have empowered others to follow in their footsteps through mentorship, education about the environment and first-year programming at the university. Some of us have not even met yet, and many of the board members have already sent me a number of ideas for the year. They are the hope we hold for the future.”

The center is looking for community partners to mentor students and to help direct the center’s programming. It already has an ambitious schedule of events and hopes to eventually become a model for other universities that want to create a similar center for student growth and development.

For more information about the Center for Student Philanthropy, contact Student Philanthropy at 859-257-5488 or


photo of ribbon cutting at Center for Student Philanthropy
UK Philanthropy officials and members of the Student Philanthropy Board joined President Eli Capilouto, center, to cut the ribbon, opening UK's first Center for Student Philanthropy. Photo by Ashley Ritchie.