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For Paula Vaughan, giving back is an ingrained behavior.
“From things as simple as donating blood, to involvement in community and devoting myself to a cause, philanthropy has always been an undercurrent in my life,” said Paula Vaughan, whose personal drive fueled her career in the insurance industry. “It is a sense of responsibility I have shared with my family for as long as I can remember.”
By the time she retired in 2007, Vaughan was a vice president of operations for Prudential International Insurance, where she was responsible for the implementation of a new company in Poland and developing process and systems improvements in large existing operations in Japan.
Her connection to her employer, however, extended beyond projects and processes.
Vaughan said Prudential shared a strong commitment to social responsibility. Today, a scholarship endowment at Thomas Edison State University bears her name with a portion of the contributions she makes matched by Prudential.
“During my career with Prudential, I was proud to be associated with a company that maintained such a strong sense of corporate citizenship, charitable giving and volunteerism,” said Vaughan.
Vaughan said that she had been donating to the University for a number of years, and, fortunately, was able to utilize Prudential’s matching gift program to supplement her giving. Since her retirement from the company, she has continued to support the institution.
“When I found TESU, as a potential student, I was grateful for the recognition that working adults needed a different approach to fulfill their educational goals,” said Vaughan. “I understand how difficult it is for people to work while managing family and continuing their studies.”
Vaughan, who completed a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1990 and a Master of Science in Management in 1998, said she always felt a lingering need to finish college to satisfy her own sense of accomplishment, and to honor the courage it took her father to finish his own education. Vaughan recalls her father as a self-directed, nontraditional learner who passed five licensing exams to practice as a professional architect at the age of 48.
“For me, earning the bachelor’s degree was a personal milestone,” said Vaughan. “By the time I completed my master’s degree, it was clearly to help address the changing work environment and to have credentials that would serve me in any future position. My gratitude to the University continuously evolved to my participation in the Alumni Association and becoming a donor.”
Vaughan has also completed a number of executive management courses through MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Hammer and Company and George Washington University.
She said that retirement has been a great opportunity to continue her learning through travels, studying new languages, taking piano lessons and horseback riding.
Vaughan also contributes to several of her local charities through volunteering and donations. Among them, the United Way for Greater Austin, Tex., where she brings her experience in staff development, process improvement and project management to the organization. She also serves on the chapter’s IT Committee and President's Cabinet. Additionally, Vaughan serves on the board for Ascend Center for Learning, which helps adults achieve a GED.
“Giving back is not just the 'rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth', but it should be built into our spirit to move us from self to community,” noted Vaughan. “There is a quote that I particularly like by Rabbi Hillel: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?’”
Vaughan said that she has been fortunate to see the growth and new directions of the University’s academic programs under Dr. Pruitt’s leadership.
“When I was approached about considering a scholarship endowment, it just felt right to move to donating through the institution to deserving individuals who qualify for the [Paula Vaughan Scholarship] Endowment Fund to help adult learners achieve their goals. I give to the University because it was the most viable solution for completion of my education, and I want TESU to continue to be accessible for other adults like me. This is my ‘paying it forward.’”