Michele Sczerbinski Diaz ’86

Michele Sczerbinski DiazWho or what inspires you to be philanthropic?
One of my very first memories of "philanthropy" is from many years ago when I was a young girl. It was Christmas time and I went with my father for a ride, to where I wasn't sure. We ended up at a 3-family tenement home nestled behind the iconic restaurants on Federal Hill. My dad had a trunk full of clothes and other necessities that he was donating to a family in need that lived there. I remember how peaceful this seemed to make him, how happy he was to be helping others and what it meant to him to be sharing this experience with me. That memory, and others like it, has always stayed with me and inspires me to give back however I can too.

How did you come to create an estate plan when you did?
After our son was born my husband and I wanted to be responsible parents, so we started the estate planning process—again. (The first attempt was years earlier before we were married!) Our main goal this time was to ensure that Benjamin was well taken care of after we are gone.

One big decision that brought a bit of joy to this often solemn process was the decision to include a charitable gift for Wheeler in our plans. Because we want to help others have access to the amazing life-changing education that Wheeler offers we have included a modest bequest for financial aid endowment in our will.

It was a simple part of the planning process, it aligns with our values, and it does not adversely impact our son's inheritance after we are gone. We now have peace of mind for Ben and feel good about how we will help future Wheeler students one day.

How did you ultimately decide Wheeler as a beneficiary of your legacy gift?
I'm a graduate, our son is a student here, and I've worked at Wheeler for over a decade. It was an easy decision. Plus, I've learned how even small gifts to endowment grow over time to make a meaningful, long lasting impact.

What was the single most important consideration in your decision?
I often say that while I was a student here I found my voice. I wanted to celebrate and commemorate that in some way. The bequest is my way to continue to say "thank you" to a community that has impacted me and my family deeply.

Each year I designate my annual gift to financial aid and I wanted to continue to support that area of need after I'm gone.

When you think of Wheeler, what key words or phrases come to mind?
Spirited, entrepreneurial, creative, welcoming, open-minded, diverse, connected to her past while embracing the future.

What would you say to other alumnae/i about leaving a legacy gift to Wheeler?
We have become big advocates for making sure all of our family and friends have a will or estate plan. Like them, we encourage you to take action and create one. Life can change in an instant and we all should be prepared in every way.

If you already have a plan, great. Perhaps when you review it for changes or when you create one for the first time you will consider making a legacy gift to Wheeler too.