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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Ten Questions with Dr. Kate Slevin, Williamsburg Community Foundation

Dr. Kate Slevin

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — “Ten Questions with” is a series that allows readers to get to know local business leaders, volunteers and community members in the Historic Triangle.

This week, meet Dr. Kate Slevin.

What is your job title and description?

My current title is Chair of Board of Trustees, Williamsburg Community Foundation (WCF). In this role I oversee Board and Executive Committee meetings and the development of agendas, serve as an ex-officio member of all WCF committees and, overall, represent the foundation when needed. I also have another title that reflects my three-decade career at
the College of William and Mary (W&M) — Chancellor Professor of Sociology (Emerita).

Who do you interact/work with on a regular basis?

I interact with a wide variety of people as Board Chair of WCF: staff, members of the Board, members of various WCF Committees, ambassadors (mostly past Board members), donors and potential donors and a broad range of civic and nonprofit leaders in the community. My two-year term as Chair ends next February and, at that time, I will roll off the Board.

How do you/your organization interact with the local community?

WCF administers a pool of funds established by individuals, families, businesses, and organizations. Each fund provides grant-making dollars for our community needs. We are about to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Our main goal is to do everything we can to create and support a vibrant community where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.

Twice a year we provide grants to organizations in our community so that they can better serve their constituents. In our most recent round of grantmaking, we supported 23 organizations that represent a wide spectrum of community needs.

Our recent grant-making rounds have shown us that we are making some progress in building authentic, meaningful relationships with minority organizations. We have given several grants to organizations that, until recently, were unaware that we are a resource for them. Even this small amount of progress makes my job hugely rewarding.

WCF also distributed over $150,000 in scholarships to seniors at our three local high schools this past June.

Our 25th anniversary will be a wonderful opportunity to engage in some significant fundraising. In recent years, we have worked hard to identify needs that have been ignored in our minority communities. Along with the Board, I have worked very hard to get out into the community to meet minority leaders and to hear, firsthand, what their needs are.

What is something about your job most people would not know about?

Community foundations are somewhat invisible in their communities. They tend to be very well-kept secrets! I confess that, before becoming involved with WCF almost eight years ago, I too was unaware of WCF. Now I spend considerable time and energy bringing awareness to who we are, what we do, and why we are very worthy of support. People give in amounts that they can afford — we get plenty of small donations and we get large donations, too. People also leave us bequests to honor loved ones. When I talk to people in our community, I have no doubt that all of us share a desire to see our community thrive. No one wants to see homelessness or untreated mental illnesses. Organizations like WCF play a vital leadership role in our community — we have the professional expertise to help find solutions to our common problems.

How do you define success?

I have had a long and wonderful career as a professor and administrator at W&M. I continue to have the joy of seeing my students become successful and contributing members of our society. Now, as a retiree, I see success through a somewhat different lens. I want to use my time and whatever talents I have to make a difference in my community — especially for those who are disadvantaged. I grew up as a minority member (Catholic) in Northern Ireland — I know, firsthand, what it is like to be a second-class
citizen. Our community is special, and I am enough of an optimist to believe that, if
we put our minds to it, we can fix much that is broken and enhance what is already a treasure.

What is your most successful accomplishment to date?

I think that my community outreach efforts qualify as my most successful accomplishment as Chair of the Board of WCF. When I have reached out to individuals and organizations in our minority community I have been met with both warmth and openness. I never dreamed that in my retirement years, I would make so many new friends! It has been beyond rewarding.

How long have you lived/worked in the Historic Triangle?

I came to Williamsburg in 1986. I debated a job offer from W&M and accepting it was the best decision I ever made (apart from marrying my husband, Bob Yeomans!). My husband and I raised our son and daughter here and it has been a wonderful place to raise kids and to live in.

What is your favorite part of being in the Historic Triangle?

Hard to pick one thing. It is historically and culturally rich. We have a wealth of places to visit up and down the peninsula. However, I must say that the people in our community are the biggest plus. I am always told by friends who visit Ireland, “The Irish are so warm and friendly.” They are, but no more so than the friendliness I experience in our community.

What do you do for downtime/to relax?

I am an avid reader of fiction. I also am a daily exerciser (although I mostly do that to stay healthy!). I also enjoy cooking a lot. Last, but by no means least, I love to travel.

What is the next step in your journey?

Hopefully, to continue to do what I can to help in our community.

Do you want to learn more about your community and the people who live and work in the Historic Triangle? We are looking for people with interesting jobs, super volunteers, or community leaders to showcase. Reach out to let us know if you (or someone you know) would like to be considered for Ten Questions.

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