Craig, you have been involved with Room to Read from our earliest days, starting by volunteering in our San Francisco office. Have you always been involved in volunteering and giving back to the community?
I can’t say that I always have. My resume is littered with odd jobs, fits and starts, and some serendipity along the way. The work ethic I formed early was mixed with some luck that found me at Microsoft in my twenties, which is where I spent most of my career.
I feel that life started to get most interesting for me as I began to be exposed to some of the world’s most complex challenges as I traveled throughout Asia and Central America, in some of the places Room to Read works. While I did encounter crushing poverty and sadness, the part that I didn’t expect was the incredible tenacity of the human spirit in some of the most under-resourced places that I visited.
What struck me most was the yearning for opportunity, which was continually found synonymous with education. This was oftentimes pursued not for personal gain, but to support their family and their community. It was so different from what I was used to in my own culture which tended to prioritize the individual. It was surprising and touching, and I was moved by so much of what I saw that it helped me redefine what I thought community should be and what relationships should look like.
It was then that I started to be challenged by the Albert Schweitzer quote: “At that point in life where your talent meets the needs of the world, that is where God wants you to be.” My world revolving singularly around Microsoft started to then seem a bit small and unfulfilling while my career and many of my other influences were brightly illuminating the necessity of education; education for all.
When did you first hear about Room to Read and how did you first get involved?
Given what I was seeing, it was exciting for me to start thinking about the next chapter in my life. I found Room to Read through some quick research and immediately saw that it checked a lot of boxes for myself and my wife, Brenda. She is a teacher, so education was tremendously important to her, and the gender piece spoke to both of us in a big way.
Working at Microsoft gave me the opportunity to be surrounded by so many smart people from all different walks of life. I quickly understood that education was the great equalizer and to deny someone an education because of their gender or where they were born, to limit their opportunity and potential in that way, was something I found unjust and hard to reconcile.
This culminated in me spending nine months volunteering at Room to Read’s San Francisco office, during which time I got sucked into all the great things Room to Read was doing and, equally as important, how they were doing them. After leaving San Francisco to return back to my home in Raleigh, I had a great desire to continue my work with Room to Read, which is how I wound up founding Room to Read’s volunteer chapter in Washington, DC.
Frederick Buechner defines vocation as the place where “your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.” I felt like this was the first time I had the opportunity to apply my talents creatively to intersect this “deep hunger.”
What drew you in and made you feel committed to Room to Read and the work that we do?
My experience with non-profits is that oftentimes “the closer you get the less you like.” My experience with Room to Read was just the opposite. A rare mix of a spot-on mission, data-driven focus, and a people-centric methodology lured me into supporting the organization any way I could. For 11 years I volunteered, advocated, and fundraised for Room to Read through my work with the DC Chapter, and my wife Brenda and I have happily invested financially as well.
Room to Read has always pushed the envelope in terms of challenging the standards of what the world is and what it can be. They have continued with bold thinking in terms of integrating their programming into government curriculums to ensure sustainability and growth, and they have also demonstrated how education is the solution to so many of the world’s problems, like climate change, conflict, and poor health. They impressed me as a true learning company; one continually open to improving.
What made you want to include Room to Read in your will?
As our two children are now grown, with families and lives of their own, we realized that they are far less in need of our support than the millions of children around the world who still lack access to quality education. In reviewing our will, it became logical and exciting for us to include a future gift for Room to Read. Through this experience, we realized anew that our support is intrinsically tied to the success of young learners around the world and that their success was truly the legacy that Brenda and I valued.
Why did you choose to use our free bequest tool to create your will and what was your experience like using it?
As Brenda and I talked about what this new will might prioritize, we realized that our will was surprisingly not very complicated. Using Room to Read’s free bequest tool through FreeWill made the process both simple and free, which are two words I like!
Why do you feel that education is a critical investment for the future?
There are probably 1,000 different ways I can answer this question, but the one that comes to mind the quickest is the closest to my heart. I think about the word “agency” a lot. To me, this ability to make choices, identify goals, and act upon them is so important and is something that Room to Read specifically teaches as part of their Girls’ Education Program. I was understanding more each day all the pressure and mixed messages girls experience, both here in the US and around the world, wondering, how do they find their voice? Without education, I saw that girls faced outdated thinking that minimizes their importance, opportunities, and yes – their agency.
How would you recommend others, who feel similarly, support this important work?
If you value education for all and envision a world where illiteracy and gender inequality are problems of the past, to me there is no better investment than Room to Read. If you have the means, I encourage you to make a reoccurring donation of any amount – it is a wonderful way to provide crucial funding for children’s education every month. But, if you are looking for a way to have a profound, positive impact on global education, that costs you nothing now, I highly recommend including Room to Read in your will. It is the most effective way to invest in a brighter future for all and with Room to Read offering supporters a free tool to create or update their will, I found it to be very rewarding and surprisingly easy.