Ralph Serpe, '85, a philanthropic advisor, maintains a strong emotional connection to the people of Fredonia after following his sister Carole- Lynn, '82, to western New York from their family's North Babylon home on Long Island.
While he studied economics and political science, it was his introduction to music and community service at Fredonia that set the course for his life. "My undergraduate experience was anything but focused," Ralph says. "I played the baritone in wind ensemble, appeared in Fredonia's TV soap opera Heartaches in Life, worked in the dining halls, played volleyball, volunteered for the local March of Dimes, and along with Jennifer Bird Chapin, '85, won the annual dance marathon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
"I've come to understand the transformative power of a liberal arts education. It provides the tools to overcome challenges, take advantage of opportunity, and think critically in any situation."
Ralph began a career in banking fresh out of school, and 10 years later he took advantage of a nonprofit opportunity to become the first executive director of the lesbian and gay community center in San Jose, Calif., where he was a volunteer. A few years later he joined the development staff of Community Foundation Silicon Valley.
Ralph was 25 when he drafted his first will, which included a bequest to Fredonia. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to accomplish with the bequest," he says, "but I knew I wanted to give back in a meaningful way." He picked up the phone and called the Fredonia College Foundation for some guidance; together they were able to shape his legacy gift.
Now vice president of the Princeton Area Community Foundation and chair of the Gift Planning Council of New Jersey, Ralph says clients regularly seek his advice as they look for ways to pursue charitable objectives that will make sense today and remain relevant in the future. In his spare time he still plays the baritone, is an avid native gardener, and remains active in the drum corps and color guard activities.
Over the years, Ralph says he has updated his estate plan significantly, but his original bequest to Fredonia remains. He recently named Fredonia as a beneficiary of his retirement plan, requesting that his combined legacy gifts support the work of the college foundation.
Ralph says, "My planned gifts to Fredonia honor my sister Carole-Lynn, '82, my Fredonia friends that are still very much part of my life-Jennifer Bird Chapin, Ann Kovach, Michele Lepine and Robert Reader-and the faculty and staff that still guide, encourage and inspire me-Dr. Marwan El Nasser, Jim Hurtgen and Patty Feraldi.
"We all move forward in life. I wanted to be sure I remembered the people who propelled me in the right direction."
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