The students in the Bonner Leader Program needed to send a thank you, and a plain old note just wouldn’t do. Putting their heads together, they decided to show their gratitude by doing what came naturally: volunteering. For one Saturday in March, 20 students donated their time to the Charleston Animal Society in honor of Stephen and Maureen Kerrigan, who recently committed $160,000 to the College’s Bonner Leader Program to further its mission of promoting leadership and community service throughout the world.

Among these Bonner Leaders was Brittany Counts, a rising senior who suffered through a cat allergy that Saturday to show her appreciation of the Kerrigans and to help families who came to the shelter to adopt a pet.

Thanks to the Kerrigans’ generosity, Counts has made far-flung volunteer trips to Morocco, Puerto Rico and San Francisco. In Morocco, she visited a children’s hospital and, in Puerto Rico, she helped make repairs at a home for boys. One lesson learned about kids around the world, Counts says, is that “you don’t need to speak their language to put a smile on their face.”

Another beneficiary of the Kerrigans’ gifts is rising junior Reba Carroll, who has visited Puerto Rico twice through the Bonner Leader Program, volunteering her time to scrub away graffiti and
to rehabilitate trails in El Yunque National Forest. At the Charleston Animal Society, Carroll made toys for puppies and helped organize supplies in honor of the Kerrigans.

“We’re very appreciative,” Carroll says.

The commitment to the Bonner Leader Program is part of an $800,000 gift the Kerrigans made to the College in 2012. The gift also includes more than $500,000 to create the School of Business Investment Program, which gives College students the chance to drive decisions about the investment of real money. This fall, students in finance professor Mark Pyles’ Applied Portfolio Management course will take charge of $50,000 and begin analyzing and evaluating different ways to create and manage an investment portfolio. In the semesters to follow, additional gifts to the program will boost the size of the portfolio, with any profits from the students’ investments also staying within the fund. The goal of the program, says
Steve Kerrigan, is to better prepare students for potential finance careers after college.

“There are very few schools around where the kids are investing real money,” says Kerrigan, whose son Sean graduated from the College in 2012, and whose daughter Cailen graduated in 2008 and was one of the College’s first M.B.A. graduates in 2011. “That’s real-world experience.”

And while some students will gain that practical experience in the world of finance, the Bonner Leaders will continue to gain it in the world at large. Counts, whose career interests in children were confirmed by her Bonner Leader excursions, says it’s “refreshing” to discover that a passion for community service exists among people across the globe. Also refreshing, she says, is to have a family back home who believes in the good the Bonner Leaders are doing.

“The Kerrigans believe in what we do and instill faith in us,” says Counts. “They see hope in us, and that is really humbling.”