Innovative education research by Curry School early career professors is getting a boost, thanks to two astute donors brought together by the Curry Foundation.
Richard R. “Dick” Abidin is a well-known professor emeritusof the Curry School, who founded our Clinical Psychology program in the 1960s and achieved prominence as a scholar and leader in his field.
Peter K. Scaturro, a father of a second year student at U.Va., is a retired financial executive—a former bank CEO and partner at Goldman Sachs.
Dick and Peter met just last year, when both joined the Curry Foundation board. Despite their divergent career paths, both men care deeply about education. They believe in the Curry School mission and its leadership. Both understand the competitive landscape of the education school marketplace and the importance of differentiating the Curry School as a center for innovative thinking.
From their vantage point on the board, they learned that early stage education research—especially by newer “rising star” faculty members—is often stymied in its infancy because funding at that level is so elusive. Dean Bob Pianta told the board about potentially significant educational innovations that lose traction without adequate financing or that go off with faculty entrepreneurs to other universities with better resources.
Dick and Peter put their heads together and brought an idea to the board—one in which they were so vested they were willing to seed it with their own sizable gifts: A Dean’s Research and Development Fund.
“I have always believed that in order to increase the effectiveness of talented people like Dean Pianta you need to give them the flexibility to move quickly and make some decisions on the spot.”
The new fund supports early development research that has the potential for significant impact on the field of education and long-term economic return to Curry.
“I have always believed that in order to increase the effectiveness of talented people like Dean Pianta you need to give them the flexibility to move quickly and make some decisions on the spot,” Peter explained. The fund will give the dean some resources for supporting promising research ideas and retaining the bright, energetic faculty members behind them.
An important element of their idea was annual reporting to donors on the research their gifts support. “We both believe that there are individuals who will provide philanthropic funding and who will be interested in following the supported research as a way of being connected to Curry,” Dick said.
They see the fund as a new avenue of engagement for alumni and friends in the work and mission of Curry. “Those who want to support innovative research and be able to follow the progress of the projects will now have a horse in the race to champion,” Dick said.
The next challenge is getting out the word and finding like-minded donors who will join them in supporting the Dean’s R&D Fund.
While Dick knows from personal experience the value of this kind of support for early career faculty members, Peter knows it makes perfect business sense for the Curry School’s reputation: “We think this fund will help keep the Curry School at the front of the pack,” he said.
If you would like to know more about the Deans R&D Fund, contact the Curry Foundation staff at email@example.com
Story by Lynn Bell
Photos by Tom Cogill