The overwhelming support during our faculty and staff giving campaign has us all shook up.
There’s a large plastic bust of Vegas-era Elvis perched prominently on a shelf at the Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS). While a relic of a certain kind, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll isn’t quite old enough to be the subject of study at the Centre. Instead, he’s presiding over Graceland, as the office of the graduate administrator, Grace Desa, is popularly known.
Desa has been at CMS for 29 years and is, by all accounts, the heart of the Centre. She’s the first person new students meet and likely the last to bid them farewell upon graduation. She counsels them on their admissions and their financial issues, and she consoles them when they do poorly on an exam. “I’d love to say that the best part of the job is helping students, but we all help students in our own way, don’t we?” says Desa. “I’m like a mother and they are all my babies. I feel sad when they leave the nest. Proud, but sad.”
The 2016 Be Awesome Campaign was the most successful faculty and staff campaign in Arts & Science history. Overall participation among faculty and staff was up 96% over the previous year and one-third were firsttime donors to the Faculty.
In 2016, Desa was rewarded for her contributions at CMS with the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award. But her giving to CMS doesn’t end when office hours are over. A few years ago, Desa decided she wanted to do something more, so she became a donor. She’s given several times in recent years and she was one of the hundreds of staff and faculty who participated in the 2016 Be Awesome Faculty & Staff Giving Campaign.
“I believe in the work we do and I believe in helping our students as much as we can,” she says. “Being a donor is so fulfilling. So I’ll keep giving whenever I can.”
Desa made her first donation after a colleague’s mother passed away. In lieu of flowers, she gave to the Dictionary of Old English, “one of our dear projects,” she says. She’s since made several gifts to both the DOE and student scholarships.
“I give what I’m able to now,” says Desa. “I haven’t made out my will yet, but I’m considering leaving something to the university.”
The Faculty and Staff Giving Campaign at Arts & Science February 23 -March 15, 2016 Learn more at: uoft.me/BeAwesome
Story by Barrett Hooper
IN GOOD GRACES:
Grace Desa in her office at the Centre for Medieval Studies. Photo: Jackie Shapiro