What I’ve Learned: Robiaun Charles ’94

July 07, 2022

By Rob Humphreys ’16MBA

Robiaun Charles ’94
Photo by Bonnie J Heath Photography.

Robiaun Charles ’94, new national co-chair of The Rollins Annual Fund, has a vested interest in the success of higher education.

She’s worked in development for four colleges and universities, earned advanced degrees from two others, and assists many more as vice president of Chicago-based Grenzebach Glier and Associates, a philanthropic management consulting firm.

While it’s been nearly 30 years since her days at Rollins, Robiaun Charles still holds a special place in her heart for the College—a feeling she knows is shared by countless other alumni.

“I believe deeply in the power of philanthropy,” says Charles, who serves as vice president of the Alumni Advisory Board. “Applying that belief to my alma mater, which had such a profound impact on my life, is a no-brainer. I want to use my voice to encourage others to give and to thank those who have given to Rollins.”

Charles started in nonprofit marketing and PR before joining the development office at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1998. Over the next two decades, she took on similar roles at the University of Evansville, the University of Texas, and Agnes Scott College in Atlanta.

While working full time, Charles earned her master’s in policy/nonprofit administration from Georgia State and a doctorate in higher education from Vanderbilt. In between, she attended the higher education management development program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Business.

At the foundation of her success? A philosophy degree from Rollins.

My philosophy degree has served me well because it taught me critical thinking, and that’s probably one of the most important skills a college degree can offer any person. Critical thinking is applicable to any career, and it helped me become a strong writer too.

There’s great value in engaging with people who hold differing opinions and perspectives. You can have strong beliefs about something but still be respectful about presenting your beliefs in a civil fashion. In our world today, that’s as essential as ever.

Rollins is the embodiment of what a liberal arts education provides to students. You can engage with faculty, staff, and fellow students in an environment where true learning is encouraged and it’s part of the ethos of the place. That’s important because it puts students on a path—their chosen path—post-graduation.

The Rollins Annual Fund is essential to the College because it provides the institution the needed flexibility to fund the various programs, projects, and initiatives that make Rollins great. It’s the first step to giving that alumni should make.

Philanthropy has the power to transform lives. The etymology of that word breaks down to love of humanity. A gift that one person makes can encourage someone else to make a gift and have a multiplier effect. It’s huge to advancing our world, specifically in education.

In some corners, there might be a belief that Rollins doesn’t need philanthropic support from its alumni or that the only way to make a difference is through a big gift. But all gifts matter.

I’d like that to be reflected in our alumni giving participation rate. It’s a personal challenge that I want to put forth for all alums to make a gift. The financial aspect of philanthropy is very important, but philanthropy in general is about giving back. You can give back to others through volunteering and by way of mentoring.

As for personal life lessons, there are two rules I live by: Treat other people how you want to be treated (kindness doesn’t cost anything) and be authentic in all situations and circumstances (show up as who you are).

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