King-Shaw family supports "all are welcome here" message
When Patricia King-Shaw and Rubén Jose King-Shaw, Jr. '83 were just starting to get involved in Cornell University alumni activities, they met President Emeritus Frank Rhodes at a South Florida event they hosted.
It was a night they never forgot.
"Here was Frank Rhodes, a giant in academia, elegant, erudite. Yet, he could not have been more warm and engaging," Rubén said.
"In all these years, he has never forgotten us. Our relationship with him has helped us to grow."
Eighteen years later, the King-Shaws will be reunited with Rhodes at another Cornell event, one that promises to be equally life-changing.
On Oct. 25, Cornell and the ILR School will dedicate the Patricia G. and Rubén Jose King-Shaw, Jr. ILR'83 Hall. King-Shaw Hall will house ILR's Ithaca-based conference center. The Cornell community is invited to attend the 4 p.m. dedication at the center.
Rhodes will deliver remarks at the dedication, which Rubén and Patricia say will be "very humbling for us."
The King-Shaw family has a long history of supporting Cornell and other causes. At ILR, this includes unrestricted annual support, as well as endowed funds established by Rubén and Patricia for diversity initiatives and scholarships.
"Mentoring, giving, volunteering – these have always been a part of our family culture," says Pat, who received a sociology degree in 1986 from the University of California, Berkeley. She owns Monument Style in Concord, Mass.
Rubén, managing partner at Mansa Capital LLC, a Cornell trustee and current chair of the ILR Advisory Council, says this naming gift is especially significant to him since the building houses ILR's Ithaca conference center, where people come together to "discuss, share, learn and educate."
"There are no issues today more important as those being addressed by the ILR School, whether it's helping people to learn how to resolve conflict, training leaders, or focusing on jobs, working conditions and employment issues. And nobody does it as well as ILR does."
It's a great source of pride, he adds, to know that his family is helping to ensure that this critical knowledge is shared with students and practitioners across the globe.
"Associating the King-Shaw family name with the Cornell name in this way is a wonderful match," Pat says.
"We saw this as being part of a moment in time that might never come again," Rubén says.
The King-Shaws are also glad that they can play some small part in keeping the university's "any person, any study" message vital.
"At the close of the Civil War and with the passage of the Morrill Act, you had a new population of African-Americans, immigrants and farmers who now had freedom to pursue education on an equal basis. To have this school, Cornell, say that 'all are welcome here to compete on an equal opportunity basis,' is phenomenal. That message is still phenomenal," Rubén says.
While Rubén and Pat hope other alumni will be inspired by their story, Pat hopes students see, too, that they can start giving back early in their lives, "when you can and as you can, as part of a purposeful life."
For their daughters, Angelica King-Shaw and Alexandra "Lexi" King-Shaw '15, Pat says it's even more personal.
"I know Lexi is going to have some bad days, and on those days, I'd like her to be able to walk by this building, look up and see our name there, and know we’re watching over her. It can be a reminder to pick yourself up and keep going."
As the dedication draws closer, Rubén says there are many Cornell leaders and friends he is thinking about. He mentions the support of ILR Dean Harry Katz, who will also speak at the dedication; former Cornell board president Peter Meinig; and the late Cal Landau, who worked for the university's Alumni Affairs and Development division.
"Cal was a gem of a man. He was the one who first got us involved in Cornell alumni programs. We would not have had a relationship with the university as early as we did if it hadn’t been for Cal."
Rubén says that he's not quite sure how he will react when he looks up for the first time and sees the family name on a building at the school, and the university, that profoundly shaped the course of his life.
He has a bit more certainty about what it will feel like when President Rhodes speaks.
"It's very emotional. I get teary just thinking about it."