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David Campbell: Philanthropist on campus

Charity work can be one of the most rewarding careers. It may not pay the most, but you’ll go to bed at the end of the day knowing you made a difference. David Campbell chose this path, and for Campbell, the choice was simple because he has always been a giver.

Tyler Constance/Contributing Photographer

He serves on the Board of Directors of the Family & Children’s Services in Ithaca and on the Board for the United Way of New York State. He works with many charities, taught at Columbia University and currently teaches at Binghamton University, where students say he is one of the friendliest and most intelligent professors in the public administration department.

Time flies in Campbell’s “Philanthropy and Civil Society” course, a three-hour-long class of 20 students. Daniel Romberger, a sophomore triple-majoring in actuarial science, music and economics, said that Campbell is one of the most engaging teachers he has ever met.

“He’s very knowledgeable and well-connected with philanthropic organizations,” Romberger said. “His class discussions always produce more interesting ideas than we can properly discuss in three hours.”

In his “Philanthropy and Civil Society” course, which Campbell says he enjoys teaching the most, students not only learn about philanthropy, but also apply it to real life by donating a grant of $10,000 to organizations in the Binghamton area. Under Campbell’s guidance, students follow and create their own grant-making process to evaluate different non-profit organizations and decide where the money should go.

Lisbeth Pereyra, a senior majoring in human development, is currently in Campbell’s “Philanthropy and Civil Society” course. She also studied abroad in China, where she got to know Campbell outside of the classroom.

“I have had the pleasure of spending time with professor Campbell both in and out of the classroom,” Pereyra said. “In both settings he has motivated me and challenged my thinking of things I see, read and hear. He is such a receptive teacher and gives his students the opportunity to really have an active and rewarding role in his course.”

Campbell’s dedication to charity started at a young age, as his parents brought him up teaching the value of giving back.

“My parents instilled in me the commitment to help others,” Campbell said.

And community service still seems to be a family affair when it comes to the Campbells. His large family consists of two sisters, who are both social workers, and five brothers, four of whom are teachers.

Campbell, however, never thought he would be a teacher. He was always active in non-profit organizations, but focused more on the management aspect of charities. After taking an adjunct position in Columbia University’s School of Public Affairs, he came to love teaching. He most enjoyed conversing with students and knowing that others were passionate about the same issues. Campbell said that if he contributes to someone else giving back, that itself is rewarding to him.

When he’s not teaching, advising or helping out with his various organizations, Campbell loves to run.

“I try to run every day,” he said. “It’s when I can clear my head.”

It was during one of his runs that he thought of a new addition to his “Philanthropy and Civil Society” course: a weekly Twitter contest. Campbell and the class use social media — most notably weekly blog posts and tweets — to spread ideas, news and concepts about philanthropy in contemporary society. His idea incorporates an original spin on Twitter use: students nominate and vote for their favorite tweet of the week and the winner then receives $1 to give to the philanthropic organization of his or her choice. To see some of the class’ tweets, follow the hashtag #learningbygiving and learn about what’s being done.

For aspiring philanthropists and students who want to go into public service, Campbell gives advice from the heart.

“Be patient,” Campbell said. “Be open to others’ experiences. To make a difference, it’s important to understand the world through other people’s eyes.”