Supporting their Passions

George and Roberta Stevens.

Roberta and George Stevens find experiential learning to be essential for students, and their donation supports students who might not be able to afford it.

Roberta BA ’70, MLS ’74, and George Stevens, members of the Boldly Buffalo Campaign Steering Committee, committed $1 million to the College of Arts and Sciences, inspired by the university’s decision to raise the campaign goal to $1 billion last April.

Longtime supporters of UB, the Stevens are adding to their previous contributions to the university by creating additional bequests, which now total $4 million—half of which will be designated to researching retinal and macular degeneration in the Department of Ophthalmology, an affliction from which members of Roberta’s family have suffered, and the other half divided between providing international educational experiences and other experiential learning opportunities, such as internships, to underserved students in the College. Roberta, the chair of the College’s Dean’s Advisory Council and the first woman to hold this important role, wants to set an example for her peers to give to the university.

40 years of success thanks to UB

Roberta credits UB for launching her successful career spanning nearly 40 years in library and information science and including the presidency of the American Library Association and high visibility positions at the Library of Congress. Among her many professional honors were the Library of Congress Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor, UB’s Distinguished Alumni Award from the Graduate School of Education and the Julian Park Award. Roberta noted that a Regents scholarship and then graduate assistantships provided the needed financial support for her education. Along the way, she was mentored by professors at UB, who generously provided advice. She noted that the bequest is “in recognition of and gratitude for the support and encouragement of UB’s faculty.”

George, who rose through the ranks of his career at several Fortune 500 companies and retired from 20 years of service at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, believes his experiential learning, as a formal component of the mechanical engineering degree program at the Rochester Institute of Technology, helped him quickly adapt and advance in the workplace. “Experiential learning was fundamental to my accomplishments in life and is why my wife Roberta and I are supporting this opportunity for UB with our bequest,” George says.

Essential educational components

Roberta and George see experiential learning and international experiences as essential educational components in a complex and competitive global economy. Their bequest is aimed at preparing UB students to launch their careers with a broader perspective and with a jump on work experience for adapting to what will surely be a future of accelerated changes. While the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic halted international travel, the couple, who fund international experiences for UB students, hosted a call with those who had to cancel their study abroad. They talked about ways to use technology and research to fully leverage the experience once they would again able to travel.

The Stevens’ support of experiential opportunities and international experiences for students who might otherwise not be able to afford them align with the vision of Robin G. Schulze, PhD, dean of the College, who has made providing real-world experiences for all students an ambition of her tenure at the College.

“The generosity of Roberta and George Stevens knows no bounds,” said Dean Schulze. “Their love of travel has inspired them to give our students the life-changing ability to see the world. In doubling their commitment to experiential learning in the College of Arts and Sciences, they have exponentially increased the opportunities our students will have to live in and learn from other cultures. They are actively helping the College create model global citizens. I profoundly appreciate the ongoing dedication that Roberta and George show as donors and volunteers. They are amazing.”

Published January 7, 2022