When the story of quiet and committed community leadership in Wilmington is written, Tom Sager’s name simply has to be part of it. His decency, commitment, smarts, passion for equality, and legal leadership are known across the legal profession. He is the recipient of many awards and broad recognition. His hard work for important organizations in Delaware is known and valued by many. As the immediate past Chair of the DCF, he has played a critical role in this organization’s work. And as an individual philanthropist, he is much respected. We are thrilled to share his comments here.
1. Why is philanthropy important to you?
Having been blessed with a law degree and the good fortune of working for the DuPont Company for 38 years, I have often observed first-hand what a positive and dramatic impact philanthropy can have upon the citizens in a state the size of Delaware. Whether it is done through volunteering, monetary donations or participation in United Way-sponsored events, the goodwill generated while connecting with our fellow citizens in need is real and palpable.
2. What first motivated you to get involved in philanthropy?
Plain and simple, in 1976 when I joined DuPont, the “giving unselfishly” mindset was instilled in me by our wonderful leaders within the executive ranks from day one. Ed Woolard, Jack Krol, Chad Holiday, Ellen Kullman, Chuck Welch, and Stacey Mobley just to name a few. But it was the culture and ethos within DuPont that touched me deeply and, I am sure, so many other of my DuPont colleagues.
3. What are the greatest factors influencing your decisions when you consider opportunities you could support?
Identifying a “community-based need” which is local, observable, and capable of actually being addressed through the collective efforts of other like-minded individuals.
4. What community endeavors are you proudest to support or engage in?
There are several that strike a chord with me. The ChristianaCare healthy heart campaign targeting the African-American community, the Community Education Building under There DuPont’s leadership, which saw the need to create a playground for the youngsters attending that inner-city school, and finally, the Innocence Project just now being launched at Widener Law School to research and provide legal representation to inmates unjustly convicted.
5. Where do you see the greatest potential for philanthropy to drive change in Delaware?
A disclaimer is in order here. I am a board member and past chair of the Delaware Community Foundation. My introduction to this incredibly effective and visionary organization came through Marilyn Hayward, the past chair who recruited me as her successor, and Fred Sears, the CEO at DCF for 13 years. I am amazed as to how this foundation has evolved under Stuart Comstock-Gay’s leadership and its transformation in developing a far more integrated approach to some of our community’s most pressing needs. The DCF inspires me greatly based upon my first-hand experience in observing the diverse groups and organizations, up and down the state, that it collaborates with to make a difference.