The gift no one can take away

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack: ASU vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage

My Story

My father was in the military so we lived from Air Force base to Air Force base, both in and out of this country. Traveling around became part of my DNA.

One of the things my parents believed in was, wherever we were, we had to have an understanding of the community. For instance, we lived in Okinawa, so we went to harvest festivals, we went to various ceremonies, we knew and understood Noh theater. When we were stationed on Long Island, we saw Leonard Bernstein conduct when I was 5. I went to the Met for my first opera when I was 5 or 6 to see Madame Butterfly.

My parents were not people of means, but they believed that culture grounds you and is something you can take with you all of the time. Culture and art were always a part of our lives. That’s the kind of gift you have when home is wherever you lay your proverbial hat.

Why I Give

I want to refer back to my parents, Ernest and Lottie Jennings. Generosity, as we understood it, meant to whom much is given, much is expected. Charity was an important part of our life.

I like to think that my husband and I have passed that on to our daughter, Kelsey. She is now at Cornell working on her PhD, but at a young age she knew what places she wanted to support and how she wanted to support them. So giving has always been a part of our generations. What are we giving back? How are we making the world a better place?

What I Care About

I believe that art and culture are our souls. They are what lift us up. We are suffering two pandemics: the pandemic of COVID and the pandemic of racism. We will have a vaccine for COVID, but the vaccine for racism is us. So any way we can learn each other’s stories, appreciate each other’s values and understand both history and what the future might be, it will come through cultural education and cultural literacy.

I also care about education. Again, I will go back to my parents. All three of their children went to college and my parents said this was a gift no one could ever take away. The ability to not just have knowledge, but to learn how to think, can help you solve any problem.

How I Contribute

“I believe that art and culture are our souls. They are what lift us up,” says Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage and Arizona State University vice president for cultural affairs.

‘Why I Give’: Stories from ASU faculty and staff



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ASU Foundation


ASU Foundation, one of Arizona’s oldest nonprofits, raises and invests private contributions to Arizona State University.