MaryAnn Baenninger, the president of the College of St. Benedict, is one of 28 leaders in higher education who recently founded “The Presidents’ Pledge Against Global Poverty.”
The initiative is meant to help end poverty and to focus on the postive impact of personal philanthropy.
Baenninger and the other 27 founding members from public and private universities all signed a pledge to contribute 5 percent or more of their personal income each year to organizations that fight the causes or effects of extreme poverty.
Baenninger is the only Minnesota college president who signed the pledge at this point.
“As a college president, I’ve been asked to sign several pledges on behalf of my institution,” she said. “My decision to sign is always predicated on the match between the pledge and the mission of my institution. This is my first and perhaps only pledge of this sort.”
Baenninger said her awareness of poverty deepened when she took extended trips to the East African country of Ethiopia.
“I promised myself then that I would give to causes where I could make the most difference, at home and abroad,” she said. “The Presidents’ Pledge makes my contributions more mindful, considered and focused. I am pleased and proud to have made this personal commitment to make my own contributions sustainable.”
More than half of each president’s contributions fund international projects, and about half may be used for anti-poverty efforts within the United States. The charitable contributions of participating presidents are made individually and directly to organizations of their choosing.
The anti-hunger initiative was launched by the Rev. Ann Svennungsen, past president of Texas Lutheran University. She gathered together other higher-education leaders who then created the Presidents’ Pledge Against Global Poverty. The group is merely a beginning, Svennungsen noted. Svennungsen said university presidents, who often have a platform as moral leaders, will attempt to galvanize more efforts to fight poverty, especially through the United Nations Millennium Development goals.