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The Drive to Give

By Paul Seifert

Like many of you, I was saddened and horrified by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that rocked Japan this spring.

That disaster was only one of the most recent tragedies that demanded global attention. During my relatively short tenure at the Bloomberg School, the world has suffered several disasters of similar magnitude. The list includes Cyclone Nargis in 2008, China’s Sichuan 2008 earthquake, Haiti’s earthquake in early 2010, Pakistan’s floods in mid-2010, and others.

The disasters may be a world away, but the immediacy of today’s media makes them very close to home. The images, the video and stories reach us in real time and somehow make them feel more personal and more painful.

And like you, when disasters like these strike, one of my first thoughts is, What can I do to help? Human beings may have many failings, but we all have a desire to help those in need. That common empathy drives many people’s commitment to philanthropy. In my 33 years of fundraising work, I have had the privilege of seeing this “better side” of human nature many times. I have witnessed many people share their wealth in order to create a better future for us all.

As associate dean for External Affairs at the Bloomberg School, I was fortunate to work both with generous individuals who wanted to contribute to improving public health as well as with faculty members and students who have dedicated their careers to making that kind of change happen. My proudest moments at the School were the times I was able to bring those positive forces together.

You have probably noticed that I’m writing about my tenure at the School in the past tense. With bittersweet feelings, I have left the Bloomberg School to take a development position in Florida that will allow me to spend more time with my young family.

It was a privilege to work under Mike Klag’s leadership and at the number one school of public health in the world. One of my greatest challenges in working with donors was to communicate what the School does. There are 60 centers and institutes; 10 departments and more than 1,100 full- and part-time faculty. The breadth and scope and depth of the School are phenomenal. To be associated with an institution whose mission is to tackle the hardest problems that afflict humanity was tremendously rewarding and humbling.

I will always carry the School and everything that I learned about public health with me wherever I go. I wish you and the School the very best.