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May 5, 2008
Focus: Community Wellness- Health
Members of United Way of Greater New Haven’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society are generous philanthropists in our community. Dr. Donald Kohn and his wife Candace are valued members of the Society. We sat down recently with Dr. Kohn to learn more about what he hopes his philanthropy can achieve and why giving back is so important to him.
Donald and Candice Kohn were inspired to become United Way Tocqueville Society members after attending a dinner to honor their friends, Annie and Ben Kaplan, who are members of the Society.
In addition to their regard and faith in the work done by and through United Way, becoming members of the Tocqueville Society seemed a practical option for the Kohns because of the convenience and consolidation provided by United Way. For instance, they appreciate receiving information about all of the organizations their donations benefit, and find that it makes planning for giving easier the following year.
Donald initially saw the work and benefits of United Way of Greater New Haven funding for child health programs while he was the Chief of Dentistry at Yale New Haven Hospital for 25 years. While Chief, Donald founded the Yale-New Haven Pediatric Dentistry Center and the postdoctoral specialty training program in pediatric dentistry.
Donald is founding partner at Pediatric Dentistry Associates, LLC, with offices in New Haven and Madison, continues to participate in the Yale Pediatric Dentistry Center as a member of the voluntary teacher. He also supports the arts as president of the New Haven Chorale and a member of the Yale Camerata.
As a teacher and an involved community member, Donald offers advice to young people about philanthropy, “Just make it a part of what you do. It sounds kind of trite, but just make it a part of who you are if you are in a position to do so. If you can find an organization like United Way that is trustworthy and has an impeccable track record, then you can join a community of donors and make your money that much more effective.”
Donald stresses that his volunteer activities profoundly impact his giving. “I can now see where the needs are in our community and that helps me to focus my gifts through United Way,” said Donald. “Likewise, my continuing awareness of the need that I see every day at my practice, volunteer activities, in the hospital, and at the organizations I am active in motivates me to continue my support.”
It is in the spirit of Alexis Charles-Henri Clerel de Tocqueville that the United Way of America created the United Way Tocqueville Society in 1984. Tocqueville was only 26 years old when he traveled all over the United States in 1831. One of his most important observations was that Americans hold in common a unique willingness to work for the public welfare- a tendency to lend faithful support to neighbors and countrymen, especially in times of need. Today, the Society is one of the world’s most prestigious institutions for individuals who are passionate about improving peoples’ lives and strengthening communities. Membership to the society is granted to individuals who contribute at least $10,000 annually to the United Way.
How did you first get involved with the United Way?
Originally, I was an indirect recipient of the benefits of United Way because I was the Chief of Dentistry at Yale New Haven Hospital for 25 years. Later on, our friends, Annie and Ben Caplan, told us about the Tocqueville Society. We attended a Tocqueville dinner to honor their donations and were inspired to become members ourselves.
What inspired you to become a Tocqueville Society member?
I initially became involved because of the very practical sense. Donating to United Way consolidates the process and makes it much simpler to reach those in need. I can just zip off an email and donate. I also get a list of all the places my money has benefited, so I can plan my giving for the following year.
What piece of advice would you share with young people today about philanthropy?
Just make it a part of what you do. it sounds kind of trite, but just make it a part of who you are if you are in a position to do so. If you can find an organization like United Way that is trustworthy and has an impeccable track record, then you can join a community of donors and make your money that much more effective.
Do you have a most important volunteer experience?
That’s hard to choose. I do a lot. Right now I am president of the New Haven crawl, volunteer teaching, and founder of the Yale Pediatric Dentistry Center. I am also active in other aspects of health care and the arts. Although I enjoy all of these things, I especially love teaching young dentistry residents.
How have your volunteer experiences influenced your giving?
Profoundly! I can now see where the needs are in our community and that helps me to focus my gifts through the United Way.
What motivates you to continue to support charitable causes with your time, talent, and money?
My continuing awareness of the need that I see every day at my practice, volunteer activities, in the hospital, and at the arts organizations I am active in.
What is your professional life like?
I own Pediatric Dentistry Associates, LLC in New Haven and Madison.
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