Maxwell & Philanthropy
In all its activities, the Maxwell School empowers passionate, capable people whose lives are committed to public enterprise — whether as practitioners, experts, or citizens. Like the School, they abide by a notion that when communities work together, with a sense of shared purpose, the results are beneficial for all. SU’s recent Orange Circle Awards highlighted Andrew Lunetta and Christopher Meek who are representative of the many Maxwellians striving to make the world a better place through public service. To celebrate that notion, the Orange Circle Award recognizes altruistic members of the Syracuse University community who have done extraordinary things in the service of others.
The third annual Phanstiel Lecture and Orange Circle Awards, held on April 2, 2014 at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center, was one of the highlights of Philanthropy Week at SU. The lecture is named in honor of Howard Phanstiel ‘ 71 MPA/’70 BA PSc and his wife, Louise, who gave the Maxwell School $5 million in 2006 to bolster the training of public leaders in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The gift, one of the largest gifts by an individual in Maxwell School history, funds the Howard and Louise Phanstiel Chair in Strategic Management and Leadership—created to solidify the Maxwell MPA program’s top national ranking and its training of public managers. The Phanstiels also support Syracuse University students through a generous scholarship fund that assists middle-class students and they helped fund the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center.
Pedal to Possibilities
The keynote lecture at the Orange Circle Award featured Maxwell MPA candidate Andrew Lunetta, founder of Pedal to Possibilities, a program that offers Syracuse’s homeless and underserved group-bike rides and the opportunity to earn their own bicycles. Lunetta has worked closely with the city’s homeless for the past five years, first while studying at Le Moyne College and working for Catholic Charities at the Oxford Street Inn homeless shelter and the Brady Faith Center.
In 2012, he opened a home for men making their way out of the shelter system, and currently lives there with the men as he pursues a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. During his presentation, Lunetta talked about his work with the homeless, the impact he’s made, and the profound mark those experiences have left on him.
A Maxwellian Orange Circle Award winner
This year’s honorees for the Orange Circle Award, which honors individuals who make a difference through service, included Maxwellian Christopher Meek, ’92 BA PSc/Econ, who is tirelessly dedicated to helping American troops and veterans take their next steps forward. SoldierSocks, the nonprofit he co-founded in 2009 with close friend Scott Duffy, focuses on identifying and filling gaps in the traditional systems supporting members of our military.
The name of the organization stems from Meek’s first project. Stunned by the fact that our “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan were short of good socks, he sought out donations from communities and businesses, while also creating a nonprofit organization to pursue effective fundraising for the delivery of donated supplied to the troops. Today, as the chairman of SoldierSocks, Meek is broadening the organization’s mission to helping veterans transition into rewarding civilian careers. The organization has made a monetary commitment to the Maxwell School at SU, as well as to Georgetown University, to fund scholarships for veterans to continue their educations after their military service.
Most impressively, Meek and SoldierSocks are helping veterans who have been injured in the line of duty to walk again. His organization has partnered with Ekso Bionics Company, a manufacturer of bionic exoskeleton suits, to raise funds and donate suits to as many paralyzed U.S. veterans as possible.