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ASU Women and Philanthropy celebrates 20 years of making an impact

Pie chart showing the breakdown of grants by category

ASU Women and Philanthropy has awarded 95 grants totaling $4 million to Arizona State University programs since its inception in 2002.

April 27, 2022

In 2002, a small group of women leaders who were passionate about Arizona State University, and the community it serves, set out to make a difference.

Julie Ann Wrigley, Sybil Francis and Angela Cesal were founding leaders of ASU Women and Philanthropy, an organization established to increase university engagement and give women what has become a powerful outlet for collaboration and community impact. 

The organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary this spring. It has raised $4 million among its members, issued 95 grants to ASU programs and awarded 17 scholarships to ASU students.

ASU Women and Philanthropy offers a unique model of philanthropy in which the members pool their membership dollars and decide collectively through a voting process on how those funds are invested. Their contributions have supported the arts, sustainability, health, journalism, education, science, technology, engineering and more.

“ASU Women and Philanthropy offers members a front row seat to the university, and the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge medical research, innovation in the arts, social justice issues and more,” Francis said. “ASU Women and Philanthropy members get the opportunity to experience all of that along with really enjoyable social gatherings and the opportunity to connect their passions with programs worthy of support at ASU.”

Francis moved to Arizona in July 2002 when her husband, Michael Crow, became the 16th president of ASU.

“It’s incredible for each of us as members of ASU Women and Philanthropy to experience the power of our collective impact. Every member is part of the decision-making process and feels part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Francis, standing co-chair of ASU Women and Philanthropy. “For me, ASU Women and Philanthropy provided me an instant community of like-minded women when I moved to Arizona with Michael. These are smart, passionate, engaged women who understand the transformative power of ASU and the impact the university can have in our communities and on lives.”

Portrait of .

Sybil Francis

ASU Women and Philanthropy has made a direct impact on nearly 400 faculty, staff and students through the grants awarded to explore their ideas and research, said Lindsy Manning, senior director of engagement for the ASU Foundation for A New American University. Through the grant process, members have also provided mentorships and guidance to the ASU community.

While the organization is focused on investments that help ASU solve global problems and increase access to education, it also offers its members unique opportunities to engage with other accomplished women.

“Women and Philanthropy was an early investor in women’s futures,” said Julie Ann Wrigley, a businesswoman and philanthropist. “It was very young in this movement, and it set an example.”

Wrigley, who served as founding co-chair of the organization and honorary co-chair from 2012–15, said the three founding principles continue to guide the organization into its 20th year anniversary: the value of collaboratively investing together, networking and member access to educational opportunities.

“Women and Philanthropy taught me the principles of how much more effective we can be when we do things together,” Wrigley said. “It introduced me to ASU and to President Michael Crow and Sybil Francis. From the discussions with Michael Crow, I made a substantial investment to work in sustainability and the Earth. It’s my life’s legacy.”

Wrigley isn’t the only member who increased her commitment to and investment in ASU after an introduction to the university and the many causes donors can support. In total, it’s estimated that donors have invested more than $490 million to ASU beyond Women and Philanthropy grants.

Today, there are about 250 members, 80% of which are actively engaged, Manning said. Since inception, there have been nearly 1,600 unique donors who have supported ASU Women and Philanthropy, she added.

Participants describe peer members as intellectual, intelligent, visionary, engaging, committed and passionate. They represent a variety of professional and personal backgrounds including law, philanthropy, business and health care. About 10% of the members are ASU faculty and staff or ASU Foundation staff. 

Moving forward, the organization hopes to increase the number of members who are ASU faculty, staff and administrators, said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, co-chair for 2021–23, vice president of cultural affairs at ASU and executive director of ASU Gammage. She is the first faculty co-chair of the organization and is a founding member.

“I found it was important to help lead the way for more faculty, administrators and staff to join Women and Philanthropy,” Jennings-Roggensack said. “I’m hoping to lead by example.”

“We never come to ASU wearing one hat,” she said. “We are mothers. We are swim officials. We work at animal shelters. We do a number of things, and I think for ASU’s faculty and staff and administrative women to wear the hat of philanthropy is important and will enhance the other hats that they wear.”

Jennings-Roggensack hopes to further diversify the membership across generations, ethnic and racial backgrounds, and professional and personal experiences.

“It’s our 20th anniversary,” she said. “This is a landmark moment, and it’s also a landmark moment in this country after we’ve gone through COVID and we’re dealing with the pandemic of systemic racism. It seems like this is a really important time to lend my skill set to Women and Philanthropy to address those issues.”

ASU Women and Philanthropy leaders hope to grow the organization and continue their impact to ASU.

“They will never regret it and always be appreciative,” Wrigley said of joining the organization. 

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