For many, Christmas is a time for giving to those you hold most dear. But when you have eight siblings to shop for, it can be a bit much.
Nearly a decade ago, the Cagnolatti children replaced giving to each other with giving back. They take turns choosing a charity to receive their pooled monetary gifts. When it was Claire’s turn, she chose purple and gold.
Having previously established a scholarship with her brothers to honor their father, the two-time LSU alumna decided to begin an elementary education scholarship in their mother’s name. Last Christmas, the siblings were able to put $12,000 toward the Clara Sevin Cagnolatti Scholarship fund, and several have pledged to give annually.
Cagnolatti has faithfully supported LSU for 26 years, including a planned gift, but it wasn’t until she served as the Dallas-area chairperson for the Forever LSU Campaign that she fully understood the options for larger gifts. “It may be difficult for someone to come up with a $25,000 check,” she explained, touting the benefits of corporate matching gift programs. “A small pledge of a couple of hundred dollars a month could make you a $25,000 donor.”
A gift to the new Tiger Band Hall was Cagnolatti’s first pledge. “We needed a new band hall in the ‘70s when I was there,” she said, explaining the urgency.
Next, she made a five-year, $25,000 commitment to the College of Engineering’s Breaking New Ground campaign—specifically, to support construction of the chemical engineering annex, the department from which she, her father, one of her brothers and her nephew all graduated. The new building will provide better facilities that she says will “maintain the standard” of quality education she received at LSU.
“I never lose sight of the fact that my LSU education is what prepared me for this career,” said Cagnolatti, vice president of chemical studies at Solomon Associates. “And I feel very blessed to have been successful at it.”
Cagnolatti shared that, every year, she receives a letter from a recipient of her father’s scholarship. “When you read a note that says, ‘I may have never even been able to attempt to afford school had it not been for this scholarship,’ that is a feeling money cannot buy,” she said. “This is an investment in the future. It changes lives.”
Cagnolatti’s passion for the university is deeply rooted in her family’s ties to LSU. “It’s a feeling. It’s an integrated part of our lives,” she shared. “I give because it’s more than just my alma mater. It’s a family tradition.”
Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.