Dave and Peggy Dunlop have been ardent supporters of Cornell since they first met on campus in 1955. With their recent decision to increase their bequest to the College of Human Ecology (CHE) and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), the Dunlops reaffirmed their lifelong interest in the university and belief in the vital importance of philanthropic giving.
“We've experienced much of the joy in our lives in connection with Cornell,” Peggy, who graduated from CHE in 1959, said. “So many of our friends are Cornellians, both locally and all over the country. Many of these friends were made as students, even more through Dave's work in development. There are a lot of causes that we believe in, particularly social justice causes, and we have bequests to various organizations, but Cornell is by far the largest of those.”
In his 38-year development career at Cornell, Dave, who graduated from ILR in the same year, changed the landscape of education fundraising, emphasizing the need to build meaningful, long-lasting relationships with donors. Later in his career he formed the Principal Gifts Office within Alumni Affairs and Development, responsible for the kinds of gifts that can be transformational for the university.
“When I took the job after graduation, it was the lowest paying offer I had among a number of offers,” Dave explained, “but I believe in doing work that matches your values and Cornell was the place I wanted to invest myself in.”
Peggy went on to earn a master’s in clothing and textiles from CHE. Following graduation she worked for the college finding summer job placements for students and writing 4-H programming for Cornell Cooperative Extension, but she left the workforce at the insistence of their adoption agency when the couple adopted the first of three children. She started her own work-from-home business, appraising the contents of estates and conducting estate tag sales for banks and attorneys for 27 years, until the couple adopted a grandchild. In that time she was an active volunteer in local community groups and organizations.
Peggy said the aspects that first attracted her to CHE are the same reasons they have chosen to honor the college with their bequest.
“I loved the fact that the then-College of Home Economics was designed to help people with practical innovations they could use to improve their lives,” Peggy said. “And I'm most impressed with what I read in the Human Ecology Magazine as to the current kinds of research. I wish in many ways that I could go back and be a student now, because there are so many exciting things happening. The College is right at the forefront of what's important.”
In 2009, Dave and Peggy gave 55 acres of meadowland in Brooktondale, where they lived for 56 years, to the Cornell Botanic Gardens. The large, young meadow is perfect for nature-lovers and provides valuable habitat for grassland birds and opportunities for those who study them.
Their bequest includes gifts to the Alice Davey Scholarship and the Francille M. Firebaugh Alumni Scholarship, in honor of their namesakes who were two of Peggy’s mentors, colleagues, and friends.
“The future of our nation depends on helping those whose families don’t have the resources to provide for their educational expenses,” Peggy explained. “There are so many outstanding people who do good things for our nation who were once the recipients of scholarship help. It’s a good feeling for us to know we're leaving something that will help others, just as the bequests of others helped make Cornell what it is today.”