When Patricia King-Shaw and Rubén Jose King-Shaw Jr. '83 were starting to get involved in Cornell alumni activities, they met Cornell President Emeritus Frank H.T. 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 warmer and more 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 ILR Conference Center building as Patricia G. and Rubén Jose King-Shaw, Jr. ILR '83, Hall. 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."
"Rubén has been a trusted adviser, a tireless volunteer leader and an outstanding ambassador for ILR and its mission," said Harry Katz, the Kenneth F. Kahn Dean of the ILR School. "The King-Shaws' gift will help us continue providing the very best ILR educational experience for our students in the years ahead, and I know that's something Rubén and his family are committed to, as well."
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," said Patricia, who received a sociology degree in 1986 from the University of California-Berkeley. She owns Monument Style, a hair salon, in Concord, Mass.
Rubén, managing partner at Mansa Capital LLC, a Cornell trustee and 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," he said.
It's a great source of pride, he added, 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," Patricia said.
"We saw this as being part of a moment in time that might never come again," Rubén said.
The King-Shaws are also glad that they can play a 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 Land Grant 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," said Rubén.
While the King-Shaws hope alumni will be inspired by their story, Patricia hopes students also see that they can start giving back early in their lives, "when you can and as you can, as part of a purposeful life."
Rubén said 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 Rhodes speaks: "It's very emotional. I get teary just thinking about it."
Joe Zappala is assistant dean of communications and marketing at the ILR School.