Adam Wolf

In college, I saw for the first time the effect of contributions because there are so many things supported by donors.  

Location: New York, NY

Profession: Software engineering manager

What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:
A donation in honor of my friend Sean during my senior year of college.  Sean was killed in a car accident during our junior year, and several of us who were close friends of his wanted to find a way to memorialize him.  In the past, trees or stones on the Yale campus were used to honor students that died during their time there, but we felt like these were things that most people don’t notice.  The dean had suggested that we start a scholarship or fund in his honor as a way of maintaining a connection to Sean, both for us and also for the future recipients of the fund.

The summer before Sean died, a few of us had talked about taking a trip together.  But it never happened.  So after his death, we came up with the idea of a travel fellowship.  We award it annually as a subsidy for a group of friends at Yale to travel in search of a ‘common goal or passion’.  To fund it that first year, we raised money from parents of students and donated some of our own too.

What is your charity of choice?:

I have two: the Sean Fenton Memorial Fellowship and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

What motivates you to give?:
In college, I saw for the first time the effect of contributions because there are so many things supported by donors.

In choosing how to give, I’m motivated by charities that are personal to me.  The fellowship is a way of honoring my friend Sean, and my donations to the CCFA go towards finding a cure and treatment for Crohn’s disease and colitis.  This is important to me because my father had Crohn’s and passed away from colon cancer, my brother has Crohn’s, and my aunt and good friend both have colitis.

I also give because I feel like I am fortunate to be able to.  That first year we started the memorial fellowship for Sean, one parent told us that he didn’t have a lot of money, but that he still wanted to give.  He had a book collection, so he sold some of the books in order to contribute.  You see people with so much less that give, and that’s inspiring.

What advice do you have for others who are considering giving?:

Find something you’re personally connected to and make a habit of giving.  Just like exercising, it becomes part of your routine.

Dana Wolf


Dana Wolf is a structural engineer with nine years of design and construction experience. She believes strongly in the importance of STEM education, and has volunteered with the Engineers' Alliance for the Arts, Spark, and the ACE Mentor Program to excite middle and high school students about engineering. She sees a direct connection between engineering and public safety, and she seeks out opportunities to apply her knowledge of buildings to protect the public. Currently, she is a member of the Design for Risk and Reconstruction committee in New York, which works to assess and improve the resiliency of local infrastructure. Dana practices in New York City, and serves as the philanthropy chair for her office.

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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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