Shepherd University alumnus Ramon “Ray” Alvarez ’62, vice president of the Shepherd University Foundation, was named Individual Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Tri-State Chapter, during a ceremony November 13 in Winchester, Virginia.
“Ray has been one of Shepherd’s most loyal and generous alumni,” said Dr. Sylvia Manning, interim president.
Alvarez was also honored at a reception hosted by Shepherd on October 29. A program from the reception detailed his history at Shepherd and the many contributions he and his wife have made to the university.
From the reception program:
For more than 40 years Ray Alvarez has worked tirelessly to give back to Shepherd University and the local community, acutely aware that his life was forever changed by the generosity of others. In 1958, Ray’s family was dealing with his mother’s terminal illness and resulting mounting debt; he made the difficult decision to leave school and seek full-time employment that would enable him to help support his family. A person of high character, Ray did not just withdraw from the school, but he sought out his advisor, Professor Charles Printz ’40, to explain the circumstances. That meeting was a turning point in his life. Through the efforts of Professor Printz, Ray was able to secure the financial aid necessary, $100, to pay his tuition. He spent the next several years working multiple jobs each semester, while continuing his studies, and graduated in 1962 with a degree in business administration. Ray has spent his adult life acknowledging the generous gift of education that he received, and working to give back to others in need.
After graduating from Shepherd, Ray married his college sweetheart, Mary, and began a 30-year career at Honeywell, retiring as a senior executive in 1998. Throughout his years at Honeywell, often rubbing shoulders with Ivy League grads, Ray recalls that he never felt he had received a second-class education.
“I was blessed to be taught by the likes of James Hafer, Harry Klug, Ruth Scarborough, Charles Printz—outstanding teachers who inspired students to excellence. I felt I got a quality education at Shepherd, which prepared me for a successful career.”
Very much aware of the generosity of past generations, Ray feels a strong sense of obligation to pay back to the school that was generous to him. He recalled that his first donation matched the $100 that he received when he was in need. He and Mary started a scholarship in memory of his parents, the Helen and Albert Alvarez Memorial Scholarship. He remembers his father, a Spanish immigrant who got his start in the United States as a coal miner in West Virginia, as a shy, optimistic, well-liked “character” in the community and his mother as an advocate for education for her children. The Alavarezes have also established a scholarship in memory of Ray’s beloved sister, the Helene J. Bazzrea Memorial Scholarship, and the Ramon A. and Mary E. Alvarez Faculty Excellence Endowment.
In 2000, Ray and Mary returned to the Eastern Panhandle to build a home near Shepherdstown. One of the factors that influenced their decision was Ray’s interest in becoming reconnected with Shepherd. He has been a member of the alumni association, Gridiron Club, and founding member of the annual donor leadership circle. Ray’s leadership does not end with his checkbook, as he has also served as the vice chair of the University’s Create Campaign, as well as a member of its steering committee; as the Shepherd University Foundation president from 2006-2012; and as the president of the Shepherd University Foundation Scarborough Society, raising more than $200,000 in the group’s first six years.
Ray also shares his leadership and philanthropic spirit with other organizations. He has been a multi-year supporter of the United Way of Jefferson County, and serves on the board of the AYCO Charitable Foundation and as an advisor to the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program. Ray encourages and motivates others to take on a leadership role in philanthropy through his mentorship and hands-on development of leaders in the organizations with whom he works. He was instrumental in recruiting the leadership gifts chair of the Shepherd University Create Campaign and members of its steering committee.
Three other Shepherd alumni were recognized as distinguished fundraising volunteers by AFP during the ceremony on November 13: Paul W. “Soupy” Hillyard ’58, nominated by Shepherd; Susan Snowden ’82, nominated by the University Healthcare Foundation; and Michelle Harlow ’14, nominated by Panhandle Home Health.
View Ray’s acceptance speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp1_vjLq94E&feature=youtu.be