The University Foundation at Sacramento State
Annual Report of Giving
About the Annual Report of Giving
Paying it forward is par for the course
David and Chris Wagner incorporate giving into everyday life
David Wagner's first students at Sacramento State paid no tuition—only class fees—and most were older than he was. Over the next 37 years, Wagner has served Sac State as a professor and chair in the Department of Communication Studies, debate coach, associate dean of the former College of Arts and Sciences and, for the past 23 years, vice president of Human Resources.
And while it would be hard to spend time at Sac State and not know of David Wagner, you may not know of his legacy of giving with his wife, Chris.
"It's very clear—and particularly so over the last 10 years— that there are huge areas of need which will assist the campus in reaching levels of excellence that we're just not going to get from state funds alone," David says. Ruminating on the rising cost of tuition coupled with concerns over students accumulating long-term future debt, he says, "I'm fearful that effectively these types of rapid and regular fee increases—unless there are forms of assistance for students that don't automatically involve loans—are ultimately going to force students to mortgage their immediate future to go to school."
The Wagners put their concerns for students into action, contributing to the University's President's Circle giving society since 2004. "I felt that part of donating to Sac State should be a realization that we would like some money to go somewhere as selected by the President to meet campus needs," David says.
President Circle funds have supported student programs such as the School of Nursing and Guardian Scholars or campus improvements like renovations to the Alumni Center. Funds can also serve as seed money for new University projects or present opportunities for donation matching.
Chris Wagner, who earned two master's degrees at Sac State ('81, Criminal Justice and '87, Communication Studies), even formed her own philanthropic endeavor to support on-campus arts in 2007, inspired by a benefit performance by Carol Channing on campus. The Marius and Alma Risley Endowment for the Performing Arts, named in honor of Chris' mother and father, supports faculty and students by helping to fund the production costs of music, theater and dance programs. "Whatever your passion is," David says, "at Sac State you're likely to find a way to support it, whether it's music, theater, sports, academic programs or future teachers, biologists and doctors. You name it."
And while the nation's economic downturn may have forced some donors to forgo their usual support, the Wagners instead decided to forfeit material items at birthdays and holidays in lieu of charitable donations—an example adopted by their extended family.
Recently retired, Wagner says the self-reflection at this chapter in life ignites a decreased desire for buying tangible goods and an increased desire to "pay it forward."
"It does reach a point where your needs are way different than your wants," Wagner says. "I think if you put philanthropy as a want, you start to think differently about what you really need."