Carlow University Presents Michele and Patrick Atkins with New Philanthropy Award

Carlow University presented Patrick and Michele Rehfeld Atkins, ’82, with the David and Barbara Capozzi Kirr, ’60, Leadership in Philanthropy Award.

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New Leadership in Philanthropy Award Is Named for another Carlow Alumna Barbara Capozzi Kirr ’60 and her Husband David Kirr

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Carlow University has honored one of its alumna, Michele Rehfeld Atkins, class of 1982, and her husband, Patrick Atkins, with a new award to celebrate leadership in philanthropy.  

The award, named the David and Barbara Capozzi Kirr ’60 Leadership in Philanthropy Award, is named after an alumna from the class of 1960 and her husband who, 15 years ago, recognized the need to grow Carlow’s endowment and they created a challenge match donation which has raised more than $1.6 million for the university’s endowment. The Atkins will be the first to receive what is planned to be an annual award.

“This award is presented to honor benefactors of this university who, like the Kirrs, bestow their time, their goodwill, their assets, and their energy to achieve ambitious financial goals and further the mission of Carlow University,” said Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, Carlow’s president.  “We presented the inaugural Kirr award to honor Michele and Pat Atkins who have given generously of their own time, energy, and just over $1.7 million of their resources to not only sustain the university’s mission, but also to enhance the quality of its programs.”

The Atkins have established deep roots in western Pennsylvania after arriving here in 1972, when Pat began working at ALCOA.  Pat retired form ALCOA in 2007, and currently works for Mineral Technologies, Inc., a New York-based resource company.  Michele earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Carlow in 1982, and began a career in non-profit management, most notably at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where she worked until 2003.  Michele served on the Carlow Board of Trustees for nine years, and then was asked to serve an additional year by President Mellon.  She was elected a Trustee Emerita following her ten years of service to the board.

Feeling a call to increase public discourse about the role of ethics in business and society, the funded and created the Atkins Endowed Center for Ethics at Carlow University in the hopes that Carlow may become a national leader in coversations around the ethical issues of the day.

“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 ‘business as usual,’” said Mellon in presenting the award to the Atkins on Thursday, October 11, 2018, at the Legacy Reception, held at the Mansions on Fifth.

The Kirrs, who live in the state of Indiana, were not able to attend the Legacy Reception, but they have created a new challenge to grow the Carlow endowment.  The first challenge contributed $5,000 to any individual, group, or organization that could raise $20,000.  For the new challenge, the Kirrs will give $1,000 for every $5,000 given to any existing endowment, and $2,500 for every gift of $10,000 to an existing endowment.

“These contributions will go directly into current endowments and help fuel the growth engine for student scholarships and support,” said Kimberly Hammer, Esq., vice president of Advancement at Carlow University.


About Carlow University

Carlow is a private, co-educational, Catholic university located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s “Eds, Meds, and Tech” district. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, Carlow’s graduates, curricula, and partnerships reflect its strong commitment to social justice; ethical, forward-thinking and responsible leadership; and service to the community that has a meaningful impact. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in four colleges: Health and Wellness, Leadership and Social Change, Learning and Innovation, and Professional Studies. Carlow graduates are in demand for their professional expertise, in fields ranging from nursing, the sciences, and perfusion technology to counseling, education, and forensic accounting; their entrepreneurial spirit and creative mindset; and their ability to manage change.  Carlow’s 13 athletic teams are known as the Celtics, a reflection of the university’s Irish heritage and roots.

Biography of Patrick and Michele Rehfeld Atkins ’60

Born and raised in San Francisco, CA Michele Rehfeld met Patrick (Pat) Atkins, born in Hopkinsville, KY, in 1964 while he was attending Stanford University. They married in 1965 and have 2 children, Lee Anne and John. Pat finished his Ph.D. in Environmental (Civil) Engineering in 1968 and took his first position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas in the department of Environmental Health Engineering.. In 1972, they relocated to Pittsburgh, PA to begin work with Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). Michele completed her degree in Sociology in 1982 and began her career in nonprofit management.

Pat worked for ALCOA until 2007. He retired from ALCOA and then worked for a private equity company based in New York. He now works for Mineral Technologies, Inc., a New York Based resource company.

Michele worked for the Make-A-Wish Foundation until 2003. She then had a series of positions with nonprofit organizations, specializing in helping to stabilize the management and to ensure that the organization can thrive.

Michele has served on the Board of Directors for many organizations but is most proud of serving as the Chair of the Carlow University Board for the first three years of the Presidency of Dr. Suzanne Mellon.

During their careers, both Pat and Michele experienced the best and the worst of ethical issues. It became clear that in both the nonprofit and the corporate world, decisions are sometimes made without full consideration of the moral and ethical implications of those actions. Dinnertime conversations often involved questions about what could be done to help better educate people regarding decision making within the framework of “what is right, what is just and what is fair.” Pat often said that “ethics dictates what you do when no one is looking.”

The decision to create an Endowed Center for Ethics at Carlow University was made easily because Carlow embodies values that demonstrate doing the right thing for the right reason regardless of who is looking. The gift was made with the hope that the Center for Ethics can position Carlow as a national leader in conversations around ethical issues of our day.

Michele and Pat are the proud grandparents of Robbie (graduated from Davidson College 2017 and soon to attend law school at Washington University), Annalise (will attend University of Richmond in September) and Elizabeth (will attend Furman University in September), Elysa and Dylan (who are in grade school.)

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