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Fall 2012
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Sheffield Gift Promotes Economic Sustainability

By Stacey Shackford

When Holly Sheffield ’92 first considered committing $20,000 to commemorate her 20th reunion, she didn’t imagine she’d be able to fulfill multiple philanthropic goals in a single gift.

But the banker discovered there are plenty of creative ways to support each of the college’s objectives—teaching, research, and outreach—while also leveraging its land grant mission to make tangible impacts on the world.

Economic sustainability, especially in developing nations, is a top priority for Sheffield, who is managing director at UBS Investment Bank. During a visit to Africa with a charitable organization, she saw first hand how work done at Cornell could benefit a region.

From helping indigo dyers in rural Thailand find new markets to assisting a small cheese maker in Kenya diversify its product list, the Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) Program was exactly the type of initiative Sheffield was eager to support. Organized through the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture, and Development (CIIFAD), the program brings together teams of students and faculty from diverse disciplines and pairs them with organizations and businesses in developing countries to find innovative approaches to problems surrounding markets, food, agriculture, and development.

“Not only does it benefit students, but the program helps strengthen businesses and create local jobs, which has a resonating impact throughout the region,” Sheffield said.

“Holly’s contribution was the first significant gift to CIIFAD’s newly created SMART program, and we are delighted that Cornellians are becoming excited about this educational initiative that gives real meaning to the global land grant status of our university,” said CIIFAD director Ralph Christy.

Sheffield said she was impressed with how well CALS and Cornell were able to align her gift with her individual interests.

“It’s amazing how diverse the school is, and that it can achieve so many outcomes. In one check to Cornell, I was able to achieve so many goals and felt like I was really making an impact,” she said. “I would challenge anyone who feels they have a couple of charitable passions to think about Cornell.”