BUILDING HUMAN CAPITAL: Fidelity Investments staffer Carlos Mehacha takes part in a School Transformation Day workshop at Providence’s Roger Williams Middle School.
COURTESY PETER GOLDBERG
PLANNING PROGRESS: Ron Thalheimer of Fidelity Investments uses a game to help Roger Williams Middle School students in Providence learn about strategic thinking, part of the company’s efforts to improve the workforce preparedness of children in the Ocean State.
Toray Plastics (America) Inc. gets a lot of workers from the University of Rhode Island, so when company executives became aware of the school’s need for new engineering facilities, helping out seemed a natural fit.
Last month Toray pledged $2 million toward the university’s planned construction of a new $125 million, 195,000-square-foot engineering building on its South Kingstown campus. (The contribution is contingent on voters passing a bond referendum to pay for the bulk of the new building in November.)
“When we realized how old the buildings are, I was concerned when prospective students go there and see it, then go to places like Virginia Tech, that they’re not going to want to go to URI,” said Richard Schloesser, president and CEO of North Kingstown-based Toray. “So with the approval of our board, we decided to give them a boost. We are extremely committed to the school, because we get 10 to 15 interns there every year, hire a lot of them and have many synergies with the university.”
While not every company pledges $2 million to a state university each year, Toray’s donation fits a broader pattern across New England and the country of a rise in corporate giving to education causes.
In 2012, U.S. corporations donated more to education, including both college and K-12, than any other charitable category, according to CECP (formerly the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy) in its annual Giving in Numbers report.
That was the first time education has drawn the most corporate charitable dollars, surpassing health and social services, since CECP began publishing the report in 2006.
In total, 29 percent of all corporate giving in 2012 went to education compared with 28 percent for health and social services. Community and economic development got 13 percent, civic and public affairs 5 percent, and arts and culture 5 percent to round out the top five.
Why has education become a more popular target of corporate giving in recent years?