By Callie Ewing, BA ’03 MH ’22
From University of Dallas undergraduates to benefactors who have provided for the university in their wills, Mike Perkins, BA ’78, and Sharon (Kapavik) Perkins, BA ’79 MA ’89, have a relationship with UD that has evolved over time, not unlike that between children and parents: “Like one’s adult kids, we’ve come back home at various intervals,” explained Sharon Perkins. “There’s a reason your university is called your ‘alma mater’.”
Sharon was a first-generation student who came to the university on a scholarship, and Mike, following in the footsteps of older siblings, was a legacy student who nonetheless had to work 54 hours a week to pay his own way through.
As a junior, Mike had just switched his major from psychology to theology and had plans to enter the seminary. It was February 1977, and he was at one of his three jobs, at the circulation desk at UD’s library, reading A Woman Clothed With the Sun: Eight Great Appearances of Our Lady in Modern Times. The library door opened, and he looked up just in time to see the ninth apparition of Mary walk through it.
As it transpired, it was not actually Our Lady but rather Mike’s future wife, who had recently returned from her Rome semester. Still, he recognized Sharon as “goodness personified” and made it his priority to meet her. Four months later, they were discussing marriage. The Perkins credit UD, therefore, with bringing them together, sowing the seeds of their relationship and of their family.
Following graduation, they became alumni with careers in parish ministry. They both have spent their careers primarily working for nonprofits, serving the Church. When Sharon began pursuing graduate work, they had a toddler and another baby on the way — eventually having three children.
“For so long we had no money, no money!” emphasized Sharon.
Sharon was a graduate student at UD and taught at the university briefly. Mike worked in the Development Office for a time as a university employee, running a capital campaign. They became parents of a student — their son, David, BA ’12 — and then parents of an alumnus.
The Perkins’ commitment to their current position as university benefactors has resulted from all of these previous roles. When it came time to revisit their wills, they realized that after so many years of working hard to make ends meet, they would probably actually have some money left over at the end of their lives. They wanted to give this money where it would have a lasting impact on the next generation, and UD was one of their immediate choices.
“When you’re building a life and a family, you allocate your resources where you can, but as you start to look at your legacy, wouldn’t you want to be philanthropic from the bulk of your wealth?” asked Mike. “A legacy gift allows you to use the corpus of your wealth where you know your gift will have an impact. You can make a gift that’s transformative at any level and leave a legacy that’s meaningful.”
Sharon added, “Wealth is also of the spirit — for us to not only give from our modest material means, but to give in and from that spirit. We have no idea how our gift will impact someone down the road; even assisting one student would make a tremendous difference in that one life. You have to rethink what one’s philanthropy could look like and what it means; it helps us and the university to take the long view. I have changed my way of thinking about wealth and legacy giving, because I know how much I gained from what I received here.”
For the Perkins, the University of Dallas has shaped their family by enriching both their lives and their children’s with the education they received and the lifelong friendships they formed. It brings them great joy to enrich and form future lives and relationships in a similar way through their bequest.