It’s no surprise that Ralph has made significant gifts for some important projects.
The inspiration for his first gift came from his stint in the Air Force during World War II as a psychologist.
“In the service, I spent a lot of time in the South where there were lots of swamps and wetlands,” Ralph recalls. “At the time, I thought swamps and wetlands should be avoided, but Southerners put bridges and boardwalks through them so they could be appreciated! During my stay, I learned that wetlands were interesting and beautiful places. So here at Kendal, I thought our Buttonbush wetlands were being wasted!”
When Kendal at Oberlin residents began talks about connecting the cottages more conveniently to the community center, Ralph envisioned a project that would also introduce the community to an area of the campus no one knew. He joined the team that worked with professionals to design what’s now called Buttonbush Bridge, a covered boardwalk over those wetlands. His first gift was a major contribution toward the construction of the bridge, an engineering gem that enables residents from all parts of the campus to go back and forth through the Buttonbush wetlands safely amidst great beauty.
The idea for Ralph’s second gift arose more recently when he needed a medical test and he and his several-hundred-pound motorized wheelchair were transported to the hospital in a small Kendal van. “It was an accident ready to happen!” Ralph says.
After his test, Ralph went right to Executive Director Barbara Thomas and explained his concern. He said that he had helped the Air Force study the behavior of terrorists on airplanes and had learned that when passengers were forced to the back of the plane, the maneuverability and safety of the plane were negatively affected by the shift in the center of gravity. While riding in the van and swaying precariously around every curve, Ralph said he sensed that his heavy wheelchair had changed the center of gravity and that he pictured the van rolling over at higher speeds. He recommended that, for the safety of residents and staff drivers, the community explore more appropriate vehicles for transporting residents and their heavy equipment. The staff began researching new vehicles and, upon choosing one that seemed to meet all criteria, took Ralph and his wheelchair for a test drive. The order was placed and Ralph was a major factor and contributor to make this purchase possible.
When thanked for his philanthropy, Ralph laughed and admitted that he had never considered himself a “philanthropist.” Yes, Ralph. Your active efforts to promote the welfare of your fellow residents and staff certainly qualify you. Thank you.