An MIT Alumni Association Publication

When does “pi” equal “tau?”

Do you know? That is the riddle that the MIT Alumni Association is hoping MIT alumni and friends will answer on March 14, when it kicks off its second MIT 24-Hour Challenge. The goal of this year’s challenge is to reach a tau-inspired 6,283 donors on Pi Day. 

Last year’s inaugural MIT 24-Hour Challenge launched Pi Day at midnight EST with a goal of 1,500 donors, which it reached by 10:00 a.m. By day’s end, the 2017 event drew more than 6,000 donors contributing $3.8 million to support the Institute’s students, faculty, and programs.

Students benefit from funds raised through the 24-Hour Challenge
MIT students benefit from Pi Day donations.

“It is fitting that the theme of this year’s challenge is ‘collaboration,’” says Whitney Espich, MIT Alumni Association CEO. “There is likely not a single achievement or idea to come out of MIT that has not benefited from teamwork. Last year’s event demonstrated again that this community will always come together in support of something greater—in this case, raising funds to help MIT make a better world.”

The Alumni Association is hoping for an even greater response this year, as there is another key incentive for participation: if the challenge reaches its donor goal, it will unlock a pi-themed $314,159 challenge gift from an anonymous donor.

In addition, there are nearly 60 micro-challenges throughout the day—smaller giving campaigns organized by various on-campus programs and student groups, academic departments, labs, and centers; plus scholarships.

Raffaela Wakeman ’08, SM ’09, an MIT Alumni Association board member and co-chair of the 10th Reunion Gift Committee, is hoping that her fellow young alumni will turn out for the MIT10 micro-challenge. At stake: If 314 graduates from the last decade donate, the MIT10 micro-challenger will give $5,000 to MIT (and if they get to 628 donors, that gift will become $10,000.)

Roughly half of the PKG center budget comes from annual donations, so contributions from alumni and friends on Pi Day are critical...

“Looking back on my years of being MIT10, I have been proud to see each new class of alumni consistently stand up through their donations to say, ‘Hey, I want to make a difference for MIT students.’” says Wakeman, who lives in Arlington, Virginia. “After all, we are the closest temporally to the MIT student experience, but as alumni we also have seen the impact alumni giving can have on MIT students. I think we’re going to see a lot of MIT10 affirming this sentiment on Pi Day.”

For MIT departments like biology, the MIT 24-Hour Challenge offers an opportunity to engage MIT alumni and friends of Course 7. The department is hoping to see support for its research aimed at understanding fundamental aspects of biological systems and its faculty and students working to translate this knowledge into medicine and drug development.  

MIT Corporation member Susan Whitehead, honorary MIT Alumni Association member and vice chairman of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, is partnering with biology to help meet its donor goal on Pi Day by offering a challenge gift.

“In today’s climate, the importance of funding basic science is being overlooked,” says Whitehead. “We must continue to make the case for all that basic science and its research has led to in recent years and where we would be without it. So please join me in participating at any level during this challenge and help support something that is bigger than any one of us. Let’s do it together!”

For the  Priscilla King Gray (PKG) Center, philanthropic support from donors helps offset the costs of funding student-led projects designed to foster “more humane communities” around the world. With its micro-challenge, PKG is hoping to get 40 donors to give on Pi Day to release a $5,000 challenge gift from an MIT alumnus—funds that can have a tangible impact on PKG projects.  

“Roughly half of the PKG center budget comes from annual donations, so contributions from alumni and friends on Pi Day are critical to our ability to sustain and grow our offerings to about 700 MIT students each year," says Kate Trimble, PKG senior director. “Having this support helps the PKG ensure that MIT students may have an opportunity to participate in rigorous, challenging, and meaningful public service.”

With the countdown to Pi Day on, the MIT Alumni Association is hoping that the MIT 24-Hour Challenge will mark a highpoint for MIT’s well-known collaborative community—and that whether its goals are pi-themed or tau-focused, the impact of the philanthropic response will be infinite.

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