Compelled to serve, helping to pave way for those who follow

Compelled to serve, helping to pave way for those who follow  Image
Compelled to serve, helping to pave way for those who follow April 18, 2017

Alumnus Chris Hendryx shares what drives him to give his time back to CSU.

Why should we volunteer our time and resources? That is a very important question we face today, and perhaps from my story you can see how one person has responded to this need. To me the first answer is that the need is very pressing, and I feel it is part of our responsibility as members of the CSU family and citizens of Cleveland to take some ownership of the outcomes in our community.  Secondly, public funding is waning, and our institutions really need our time and energy to ensure they can meet their missions.  And lastly, Cleveland State is essential for the continued economic development of NE Ohio, and helping these wonderful students achieve their dreams is essential to realizing that future.

Since returning to Cleveland in 2012, I started volunteering for CSU in several capacities. I serve as a member of the Visiting Committee of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS,) and beginning this year I will chair that committee.  I have been the co-chair of the Sherwin Williams CSU Alumni chapter since its inception in 2014, which is the first of its kind for CSU. I am also the sponsor for the Hendryx Family Scholarship for the Liberal Arts for CLASS, and a four-year mentor of a CSU Student with a College Now scholarship.

In CLASS we have a large and vibrant Visiting Committee, which is made up of alumni and community leaders. We serve in an advisory capacity to Greg Sadlek, the esteemed Dean of the college, and offer both financial and project support to further the aims of the college.  The committee meets three times per  year and requires a three-year commitment.

At Sherwin Williams we have over 600 employees in our downtown Cleveland headquarters with a CSU connection, and CSU is the institution with the highest number of graduates employed at Sherwin Williams. In order to further the connection and cooperation between these two great institutions, we formed the first Corporate Alumni Chapter chartered by the CSU Alumni Association.  More than 244 employees have joined the chapter to date.

In my work with CSU, and from my undergraduate experience, I am well aware that the challenge for students to graduate on time is not just an academic exercise, but can be a major financial difficulty as well . The Hendryx Family Scholarship for the Liberal Arts awards two annual scholarships for students in good academic standing who are near to graduation and have a financial need. These were awarded for the first time in 2017 to two inspiring students on their way to degrees in History and Graphic Arts.

I became aware of College Now as it is an organization which administers the Sherwin Williams college scholarship program. What I was amazed to learn is that their primary mission is to grant 1,200 student scholarships to greater Cleveland area college bound students of high financial need.  A large percentage of these students attend CSU each year. In addition to the scholarship they each get a 4-year mentor as a further support to help them navigate their college career.  I am one of 44 Sherwin Williams’ employees who serve as a mentor and am proud to say my mentee is an amazing student and athlete in his sophomore year.You may be surprised that my involvement in these volunteer opportunities requires much less time than most people would think.  And, the personal satisfaction of making a difference is huge compared to the time given.  I encourage you to share your time and resources.  There are many ways to get involved both big and small, and for me the critical link to get engaged was to reconnect with my graduating college.

There is often a rule of thumb that a worker should save 10% of his or her income for their long-term financial goals. I would challenge current and potential supporters to also have a personal goal for charitable giving. Historically Americans have been very generous at donating to causes near and dear to their hearts, and we are certainly an extremely generous nation. I would advise people to set a personal annual donation percentage that they are comfortable with, sustain it long term, and try to concentrate their giving to be able to make an impact. Donating is powerful, and the donor is in the driver’s seat. Knowing where your money is going and the good results it is achieving is very satisfying. Also be aware our employers in many cases can compound our gifts via matching programs, and that tax deductible gifts are an important benefit for the American taxpayer.

For me CSU has been an essential part of my success. If I had not completed my degree, my career and life path would be quite different than it is today. So knowing that I can help some of today’s students achieve their degrees is both actionable and more importantly repeatable by any one of us.

This is why I am a proud Cleveland State University volunteer.

Chris Hendryx holds a BA in Economics from the former College of Arts and Sciences at Cleveland State University, a program now in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.