An Equitable Approach to Parenting

A parent of twins is donating the difference between private school tuition and UConn’s.

<p>Lucille Protas - The Key to Parenting. Photo supplied by UConn Foundation</p>
UConn parent Lucille Protas. Photo supplied by UConn Foundation

Equity could be a middle name for Lucille Protas, a UConn parent who is the acting CEO, COO, and senior managing director for MacKay Shields LLC, an investment advisor in Manhattan. Protas has twins, a girl, Megan, and a boy, Matthew. Megan attends a private university in Connecticut, with its attendant hefty price tag. Matthew attends UConn. To ensure that all things are equal, Protas gives the difference as a gift to UConn each year.

“I don’t pay taxes in Connecticut, so it seemed to me I was getting an opportunity that I didn’t necessarily deserve,” she says. “So I felt this was the right thing to do.”

There is something more, though, an inexplicable feeling she gets when she visits UConn. “When I am on campus and I walk up Hillside, there is a distinct feeling of enthusiasm and energized young minds ready to conquer the world. It feels so good to see future leaders being developed,” she says. “Matt could have gone to Rutgers [the state university in New Jersey], but he didn’t want to go there. Here he was very lucky to get an opportunity at a state school he really wanted to go to, and now three years later UConn is his home away from home. The boy I sent off to college is now a young man with a mission. So why wouldn’t I give back?”

Protas has a long history of stepping up to do what she feels is right. Growing up in impoverished but loving circumstances, she made an early commitment with her children to feed the homeless in New York City. “I knew what the world was like, but the children, growing up in well-to-do northern New Jersey, had no real understanding of it,” she says.

Campaign logoHer life now is a world away from her childhood. As she sits in an office whose windows span the entire northern end of Manhattan, she ponders the comforts that success brings. They are comforts that she enjoys but does not covet; she knows that poverty can sometimes instill character, and that unearned wealth can distort it. So early on, she took her young children into Manhattan so they could see homelessness first hand. They found a man begging from a box on the street. Protas gave them each a dollar to give to him and asked them to say something kind to him. Returning to the comforts of their home, the children named him Bert. Protas periodically relayed stories about the hardships Bert encountered every day, despite the fact that she never saw the homeless man again. It was a first lesson in philanthropy for the Protas twins.

Once they entered high school, the family volunteered with the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church’s homeless program near their mother’s office. While it was very rewarding, Protas felt it wasn’t making enough of a difference. Multiple times over the course of four years, they raised money, collected and sorted used clothing, and cooked hot meals to feed the homeless, setting up a distribution center in front of the church. Most importantly, the goal was to spend time communicating with those that had the potential to get off the streets. In addition, on Sunday evenings in the summer when the soup kitchens are closed, they would walk the streets of Manhattan handing out sandwiches to homeless people.

“It was very rewarding,” she says. “But it was nuts because of safety and health concerns. I don’t know how I get involved in these things.”

But really, the answer is obvious. Protas remembers not having much as a child, and she wants her children to understand the reality of those less fortunate. That’s why she acts – and that’s why she gives.

“There is a history of service in our family, as I have tried to get my kids to realize not everyone lives like them,” she says. “And I trust that the people who had the vision to make UConn what it is will have the vision to take the money and do what’s right.”

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