Giving is Fundamental for the Puris
In the early stages of the Stronger Truer Sewanee campaign, Lombard, and University trustee Everett Puri, C’82, were inspired to make a gift to the Sewanee Inn project, one of the first projects to be completed as part of the campaign. “Many of us recognize the need for a renewed and restored place for prospective students, alumni, and other University guests to get together when they visit the Mountain,” said Puri at the time. “Sewanee is an amazing place—a magnificent place, and the Inn should reflect that.”
The Puris have the distinction of being contributors in so many ways to the Stronger Truer Sewanee campaign. They have contributed to merit scholarships and to the Cushman Prize, which honors the memory of Joe Cushman, Everett’s professor of history at the University of the South. And as a member of the board of advisors for the Beecken Center, the Puris have recently made a generous unrestricted gift to the School of Theology.
“I love the fact that the School of Theology has such an important impact on The Episcopal Church through Education for Ministry and other programs of the Beecken Center,” says Puri. “I have heard Neil Alexander say that every Christian is entitled to a theological education—it’s a birthright. And Lombard and I are glad to be able to support that mission.”
Lifelong Episcopalians, Lombard and Everett attribute their philanthropic orientation to their involvement with the Church. “We attend a very large church, the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. A few years ago, our church hosted an ‘old-fashioned Sunday School’ program that emulated what might happen in a small town church,” explains Puri. “One of the bishops who spoke made a big impression on us as he talked about the importance of stewardship. He reminded us of the passage from Matthew that says where your treasure is your heart will follow, and he also emphasized that gifts flow not to you but through you. We think that giving is a fundamental part of our identity as Christians.”
Puri’s family has long been involved with higher education. His grandfather was the first dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Florida State. At Sewanee, Puri was particularly energized by the classes he took with Joe Cushman, which inspired the couple to give to the Cushman Prize. “He was entertaining. People never forget the way he talked about history, the way he made it come alive. Sewanee has always been a place that lights your passion intellectually, and that passion spreads out to your friendships, the church, and the broader community.