Wilson School personalities auction off coffee dates, prizes for charity
The Wilson School raised well above its goal of $30,000 in its Fifth Annual Holiday Service Auction meant to benefit at-risk youth. The auction pulled in more than $39,000 for the Greater Donnelly Initiative, a Trenton-based non-profit that provides a safe space for youth who are at risk of gang violence, family troubles, homelessness, hunger and drugs.
The event, held on the evening of Dec. 13 in Robertson Hall, was organized by a group of more than 20 graduate students studying at the Wilson School.
Co-chairs Phil Hannam GS, a Ph.D. candidate, and Logan Clark GS, who is pursuing an MPA, started organizing the auction with the rest of the team over the summer. Hannam said the planning “really kicked into gear” in October, when the team of students solicited donations of items to offer at the auction from local businesses, professors and students.
Donations ranged from gift certificates from local businesses such as Small World Coffee to two box-seat tickets to a Knicks game, which typically go for $290 apiece.
According to Hannam, professors were actively involved in the auction. In an offer he described as “hilarious,” Wilson School Dean Cecilia Rouse, who was invited by the students to introduce the auction and its cause, auctioned off her parking space in front of Robertson Hall for one month.
“Dean Rouse very generously offered her parking space for one month to the highest bidder,” Hannam said. “The bid was hovering somewhere around $200, and then one of the professors offered $1000 if Dean Rouse would offer her parking space for the entire semester.” The professor who made the bid was economics and Wilson School professor Robert Willig, who now has the spot for the spring semester.
Economics and Wilson School professor Paul Krugman offered to go on a coffee date with the highest bidder. Politics and Wilson School professor Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 auctioned an invitation to come over to her house to cook dinner with her and her husband, politics and Wilson School professor Andrew Moravcsik.
Around 10 students involved with the Greater Donnelly Initiative were present at the auction, along with the majority of the members of the board of trustees for the initiative. Hannam, who is also a member of the board, said the Wilson School auction is one of the primary sources of support for the charity.
Board member Patricia Pickrel confirmed that the auction is indeed the “principal support” for the cost of running the program. The money will go toward general operating costs such as supplies, food and transportation for the students, books and other materials.
The auction had 145 unique bidders. Rouse said the Wilson School has a positive relationship with the Greater Donnelly Initiative, adding that the auction “shows the commitment of the Wilson School community to the initiative.”
Hannam said the experience of the auction was “very fulfilling” for the students who were directly involved, since so many items were sold to high bids.
The relationship between the Greater Donnelly Initiative and the Wilson School is essential for the program. Beyond the dollar amount raised by the auction, the graduate students also volunteer with the program and work with the students involved.
“I can’t adequately describe how amazing they are and how much they’ve done,” Pickrel said. “Their drive and their energy makes so much possible for the kids."