Against a backdrop of complex global challenges, it can feel like our small, daily actions don’t hold much power. But University of Waterloo retiree Rose Vogt (BES ’84) is proof that every little bit counts.

For the long-time staff member, donor and alumnus, the practice of giving a little bit each month has grown into an impressive legacy that spans three decades — and counting.

A graduate of the Environmental Studies program, Rose started at Waterloo in 1977. While she has lots of fond memories from that time, she says life wasn’t always easy. Her own experience as a student is an important part of what inspired her to give back.

“We weren’t very well-to-do and there were always struggles, especially as the terms progressed,” Rose says.

After a parachuting accident in third year left her on crutches and unable to walk, work or pay tuition, the challenges only got worse. Eventually, Rose returned to her studies part time and graduated in 1984, the same year she started working full time at Waterloo.

A passion for helping students

While she went on to build an impressive career at the University, Rose never forgot the hardship she faced as a student — and one philosophy always stayed close to her heart.

“A closed fist doesn’t give you anything. So being generous is like karma. When you give generously, you receive generously. I found that to be true my whole life.”

One of the original staff hired to run Fed Hall, Rose was eventually recruited to manage the campus store in the Student Life Centre and, later, to “save the Grad House.” Eventually that role turned into an opportunity to be the first ever General Manager for the Graduate Student Association (GSA), a position she held until her retirement.

Over the course of 34 years working at Waterloo — whether she was programming social events at the Grad House or training GSA leaders on good governance — Rose was guided by an unswerving dedication to help students succeed.

That passion inspired her to start donating part of her pay cheque to the University through the Faculty, Staff and Retiree (FSR) Giving Program (formerly called the Keystone Campaign) from early on in her career until she retired.

"When you give generously, you receive generously. I found that to be true my whole life."

ROSE VOGT (BES '84), Alumnus, retiree and donor

Especially in the beginning, there was little to spare after feeding her family and paying the bills. “I couldn’t afford much,” Rose says. “But it was the spirit of giving. Waterloo basically provided me my life. I could support my family, I could support my housing, I had everything that I needed because of my connection to Waterloo.”

While people tend to underestimate the value of small, regular donations, Rose says giving a modest portion of your earnings each month is a manageable way to make a significant impact.

“The idea of giving is very difficult if you’re struggling. And sometimes people feel that if they can’t give enough, it’s not worth anything. But I gave a little bit monthly for a long time. So almost 30 years.”

Nurturing a spirit of philanthropy after retirement

Since transitioning to retirement in 2019, Rose continues to give to the University, but less frequently and in larger amounts. Most recently, she and two other current and past Co-Chairs of the FSR Giving Program served as Challenge Champions for the University’s 2021 Giving Tuesday campaign. Together they helped raise a total of $13,470 for Student Wellness initiatives, which included $3,000 in challenge funds generously donated by Rose and her fellow Co-Chairs.

“I really strongly believe in assisting students,” Rose says. “Now, as a retiree, I recognize that students are our future. They are the ones — no matter what they’re studying — that are going to be filling the roles that keep our society running and keep me as an aging senior in a healthy position. So, I think it’s really important to be able to offer opportunity to those that will be our future, to those that are struggling now.”

Even though she’s retired, that hasn’t stopped Rose from staying actively involved on campus. Today she sits on the Board of Directors for the University of Waterloo Retirees Association (UWRA) and serves as one of three Co-Chairs for the FSR Giving Program, representing retired faculty and staff members.

"Although there have been struggles, I’ve never been without. I think that’s sort of cosmic payback for generosity."

ROSE VOGT (BES '84), Alumnus, retiree and donor

“My goal is now to reach out to retirees so that, if they’re able, they can nurture and foster a spirit of philanthropy that will reflect positively on their time at the University.”

While Rose has never expected anything in return for her generosity, she says cultivating a lifelong practice of giving certainly has its perks.

“Although there have been struggles, I’ve never been without. I think that’s sort of cosmic payback for generosity.”