This article first appeared in the UConn Business magazine, Volume 4, Issue 4 (Spring 2014)
For alumnus Christopher Lafond ’87 (CLAS), service to community goes hand-in-glove with philanthropy, and he demonstrates both through a new named scholarship fund for students studying at the Stamford campus, where he is also an active volunteer.
Lafond, the CFO and executive vice president of Gartner, Inc., a leading information technology research and advisory company based in Stamford, is a common sight on UConn’s regional campus. He serves on the advisory board for the MS in Financial Risk Management (MSFRM) degree program, regularly speaks to business classes and is helping with programs in the undergraduate marketing department.
“I have a pretty clear perspective, and I’ve chosen to spend my time volunteering in a few areas, mainly around education. Everyone deserves a great education like I had, and if you don’t build a strong, educated foundation in life, it’s very difficult to get ahead.”
He first became involved with the campus when the University reached out to him with an invitation to serve on the MSFRM advisory board, a step that he sees bringing benefits to both the University and the business community in Stamford.
“We have almost 700 employees here; this is local and close to home for us. When we looked to partner with educational institutions, we quickly realized ‘Hey, there’s a great University right here in Stamford.’ It just works for everyone involved.”
Lafond started a financial development rotation program within Gartner, exposing Stamford MBA students to a variety of financial service areas, as well as taxes, business intelligence and more. He says, though, that he especially enjoys personally sharing his business experience with classes of students.
“One of the best experiences for me is making education real,” he says. “I’ll get a question like, ‘Chris, I’m studying this business situation; how would you handle it?’ and I’m able to take the theoretical and turn it into applied practice. I just get a great deal of satisfaction out of it. It takes so little of my time and means so much.”
Lafond soon decided to make a major philanthropic gift to his alma mater, and the decision to create an endowed scholarship for business students at the regional campus was an easy one.
“I know from my involvement at UConn Stamford that there are a lot of students who may not be able to go to Storrs for family or personal reasons. But I want them to look back at their time at UConn and say, ‘I had a great education right here in Stamford.’ And I want to make sure that my gift provides ongoing support, not something that goes away after a one-year period. It will be there for years, helping many students.”
He sees countless opportunities for alumni like him to make UConn stronger through volunteering or philanthropy.
“There are literally endless ways to give back, whether to UConn or whatever else you care about in life. It doesn’t have to be money! If you take an hour of your life and spend it with students, you’ll get the most amazing feedback, and you’ll feel that you’re really making a huge impact in someone’s life. When I am at UConn, I know that I’m helping those students graduate with knowledge they didn’t have before, which will help them in their own careers. So, alumni have an opportunity every day to add value to even their own education. It’s a little thing we can do to help a student that makes a big difference.”
He says that just like the impact of educating students, he wants his philanthropy to pay dividends in life for those who receive the scholarship support.
“I would hope that my scholarship allows some students to have opportunity they otherwise would not,” he says. “If I can help even a single student, that would be such a great thing to accomplish.”