David and Susan Zebro (Class of 1972) Challenges Alumni to 'Feed the Bird,' While Also Supporting EOP and the Career Development Center | SUNY Plattsburgh
David Zebro ’72 would be the first to tell you he is fortunate. He received a good education at Plattsburgh, he has a loving family, has been very successful in business, and he personally understands education’s ability to improve lives. His parents taught him the morals, values, ethics and generosity that are central to his life.
So while he has been blessed with a good upbringing, a fierce work ethic and a drive to succeed, he also sees how education can give a person a chance at a real future, and, along with a little time, money and attention, can transform not just one person, but a whole family or even an entire generation.
Principal and executive vice chairman of Strategic Investments and Holdings Inc., Zebro earned a political science degree at Plattsburgh and began working, he says, as a janitor and then a bill collector before deciding to go to SUNY Buffalo to get an MBA. To put himself through school, he also waited tables, pounded together boards as a carpenter and even slung michigans at Clare and Carl’s.
“I was pretty self-motivated. I worked three jobs and paid my own way,” he said from the East Amherst, N.Y. home he shares with wife and fellow 1972 Plattsburgh graduate Susan.
So when the couple recently gave the Plattsburgh College Foundation $250,000 to support the Educational Opportunity Program, the Career Development Center and the Feed the Bird challenge, it was just one more way to show appreciation to the school that gave them a future.
“David, to his core, is a generous human being who has not forgotten where or how he grew up,” said Kyla Relaford ’02 G’04, director of the Education Opportunity Program. “He hasn’t lost perspective.”
According to Relaford, voices are still missing in education.
“EOP creates true equity in higher education by giving an opportunity to talented and bright students, who, in many cases, are much more motivated to start and finish their degrees.”
EOP is significant because it demonstrates what access to college can do for the state and nation.
“When we talk about eliminating poverty and increasing our tax base, EOP is advancing families and communities and decreasing the number of people dependent on public welfare or repeating the cycle of poverty,” Relaford said. “It is nothing short of remarkable that a single student who has the chance to walk through our doors can completely turn around a whole family’s future. We’ve seen students who inspired sibling and cousins — even their parents — to get a degree.”
“David and Susan have had this radiating effect of generosity and community.”
The planned gift to the Career Development Center means the center’s director can dream bigger.
“I can envision the CDC becoming best-of-breed within the system,” Dr. Julia Overton-Healy said from her office in the Angell College Center. She would like to see career apprenticeship opportunities grow and the number of career-mentoring site visits expand to allow for deeper engagement with alumni. The funds could even be used to start an academic career-based class that would transcend all the colleges — sort of a preprofessional skills-and-career-readiness class available to everyone. Funds might also help send students to more conferences for career networking.
Near and dear to Overton-Healy’s heart would be developing a women’s leadership summit to bring high-profile women to campus to talk about careers and strategies for success.
“This gift completely reframes how we think about the center’s role in the institution and the community,” she said. “It allows us to think on a much larger scale and prepare ourselves to live on that scale years from now.
“All I can think about is what a wonderful vote for the future for our students and alumni.”
In addition to helping two critical programs that provide life-transforming growth opportunities to students, the Zebros’ commitment helps engage more alumni. Part of their gift encourages other alumni to also make a gift in any amount to SUNY Plattsburgh before June 30 as part of the Feed the Bird challenge. If the college receives gifts from 4,000 alumni by June 30, the Zebros will provide $50,000 to the college to fund more enrollment scholarships and other enrichment programs.
“The Zebros lead by example,” said Anne Whitmore Hansen, vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of the Plattsburgh College Foundation. “They also know how to make supporting a worthwhile organization like SUNY Plattsburgh fun for everyone. While not everyone has the means to make a large gift, most have a little something that they can give. With over 60,000 alumni, that ‘little something’ can become quite significant indeed.”