The giving tree

Pareskys sow opportunities

650_Paresky-9It’s a brilliant June morning on campus. Just outside of Balfour-Hood Center, two beautiful English oak trees sway in the breeze. The “coed oaks”—as they are affectionately known—were a gift of Susan “Sue” Stampler Paresky ’68 and her husband, Joseph.

The year was 1988, and Paresky, who was director of alumnae affairs at the time, planted the trees to commemorate a historic event in the story of the college: Wheaton was going co-ed.

But those weren’t the only seeds the Pareskys planted. That same year, the couple established the Joseph M. and Susan Stampler Paresky ’68 Fellowship to provide financial assistance to recent Wheaton graduates pursuing graduate studies. The Paresky Fellowship is still going strong, and 2013 marks its 25th anniversary.

Like the oak trees she planted 25 years ago, Susan Paresky’s roots run deep into the soil of Wheaton. After graduating, she married her husband on campus at Cole Memorial Chapel in 1972. She became director of alumnae affairs in 1982, set up the Paresky Fellowship in 1988, and from 1993 to 2003, she was a Trustee of the college, working on major issues like enrollment, budgets, strategic planning and, of course, fundraising.  

“I have always felt that Wheaton is a springboard into life,” she says. “And I want to give back to the school that has given me so much.”

In May, she invited past Paresky fellows into her Boston home, including Jennifer Salazar ’10, Joshua “Jay” Weimer ’96 and Christine Parzych Vigneux ’91.

Paresky  says it is remarkable to see the impact Wheaton graduates have made in their respective—and very diverse—professional fields.

Generosity is a central theme in Paresky’s life, instilled in her from an early age by her parents. Whether it has been time, talent, financial contributions, or words of encouragement, Paresky has dedicated her life to helping others.

She is currently senior vice president for development at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where she directs all fundraising and capital campaigns. She recently managed a $1 billion capital campaign for Dana-Farber—the largest-ever fundraising effort for any New England hospital.

“She’s really a legend,” says Lora Sharpe, director of donor relations at Wheaton. “In her professional life, she’s achieved historic results in philanthropic giving for cancer research. And in her personal life, she is always so generous, even with her time.”

Today, the coed oaks are still standing strong, still growing, stretching ever skyward.

“My connection with Wheaton—it’s a forever connection,” says Paresky, smiling. “The oak trees represent that. Wheaton is a piece of my history, my memory. And it always will be.”