Carlow alum embodies finding a passion following a dream and working to effect positive change in the world

Over the course of their respective careers in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, Patrick and Michele Rehfeld Atkins '82 readily acknowledge they've experienced the best and worst of ethical decisions in the marketplace.

And they've not only done something to address the worst of them, they've given abundantly to many organizations in the region that make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of others-including Carlow University.

"It is this commitment to the next generation, and to passing on a legacy of ethics and corporate responsibility to a greater good, that separate Pat and Michele from people who are intent on simply doing 'business as usual'," said Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, president of Carlow University.

Feeling a need to increase public discourse about the role of ethics in business and society, the Atkins founded The Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics at CarlowUniversity in 2017 through a generous $1.5 million grant. The center serves as a resource in the study and applications of ethics in the region in the hopes that Carlow may become a national leader in conversations surrounding the ethical issues of our day.

To date, the Atkins have contributed more than $1.7 million toward Carlow University's mission and the enhancement of its programs.

The couple was honored at Carlow University's annual Legacy Reception Oct. 11 at Mansions on Fifth and awarded the inaugural David and Barbara Capozzi Kirr '60Leadership in Philanthropy Award, named in honor of the Kirrs' transformational, philanthropic leadership at the university.

The award honors benefactors of Carlow University who bestow their time, goodwill, assets and energy to achieve ambitious financial goals in advancement of Carlow's mission.

The reception was also an opportunity for Carlow's endowments' benefactors to meet face-to-face with dozens of Carlow students who are recipients of academic scholarships made possible through these endowments-scholarships that offer endless possibilities to students in building a better tomorrow for themselves, their families and the community.

Patrick, who holds a PhD in environmental engineering, retired from Alcoa in 2007. Michele attended Carlow as an adult student, graduating in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in sociology. She went on to serve in several positions in nonprofit management, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and served on the Carlow Board of Trustees for 10 years. She subsequently was elected as a Trustee Emerita for exceptional commitment to her alma mater.

"Carlow taught me many things," Michele said. "The most valuable lesson was gleaned by watching the ethical values of the Mercy nuns who founded this university."

Lauding them as "feisty, smart, dedicated and very caring women," Michele said they thought about the things that were most needed by the people in the community and identified ways to do something about it.

Patrick said that when he and Michele think about organizations to which they will contribute, they look for creativity, smart people, dedication, enthusiasm and leadership.

"We're very pleased to be able to support an organization like Carlow," Patrick said. "Carlow is making a difference. It's making more and more of a difference every year."

Michele upheld the students in attendance as "the future of philanthropy"-and she accepted the award with the hope that each of them would find their passion and a vision for a better world, and share their resources to effect positive change in the world.

Carlow University extends a special thank-you to Fort Pitt Capital for its sponsorship of the Legacy Reception.


By Elizabeth Fazzini