Why I Give

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Ole the Lion shows his gratitude to volunteers Clayton Smith ’10 and Greta Fure ’09 at the college’s annual Black and Gold Gala.

Clayton Smith ‘10 knows there’s more than one way to give. As a development associate for the Minnesota Children’s Museum, Smith knows that contributing his time and talent to St. Olaf also makes a significant impact. And he understands that a habit of regular giving — regardless of the amount — can make a big difference over the long haul. We talked with Smith about what he gained from his time on the Hill, and why he gives back:

What activities or events bring you back to St. Olaf?

“I come back for concerts and musical events. I always make it back for Christmas festival — those PBS broadcasts were my first connection to St. Olaf as a young child growing up in Atlanta, and it’s still my favorite time to be on campus.

“I’m also involved with volunteer activities: I’m a class fund agent and a member of the St. Olaf Fund Board. And I’m passionate about connecting people at Twin Cities events like the Black and Gold Gala.”

What did you gain from your time on the Hill? 

One of the big things I learned at St. Olaf was self-assurance and confidence in who I am. I felt like I could totally be myself, and I know many others who felt the same way. The St. Olaf community gives people the opportunity and a safe space to figure that out.

“I also developed leadership skills. I had opportunities to lead my peers in many different ways, from being the president of Cantorei to organizing the 100-Day March for my class.”

Why do you give to St. Olaf? 

“St. Olaf impacted my my life in profound ways. So I want to help the college provide other young people with equally enriching and formative experiences. I’m not able to give as much as I would like, so I’ve found other rewarding ways of supporting the St. Olaf.

“Through volunteer roles with the college, I’m able to harness my enthusiasm for St. Olaf and use it to connect Oles and inspire other young alums to give, too. I’ve also supervised two interns from St. Olaf, in part because my first job out of college was a direct result of an internship I had with an Ole my senior year.

“Conversations about giving can be kind of awkward at my age, since many classmates are still getting settled in their careers and paying off their college loans. It’s important, though, to cut through that awkwardness and be honest with my peers, helping them understand the need for their gifts and the importance of setting those habits in place right now.”

If you won the lottery and shared your winnings with St. Olaf, what would you fund? What would your legacy be?

“Easiest question ever! I would build a beautiful, acoustically brilliant concert hall worthy of our college’s rich musical tradition.”