Why I Give: The Importance of Philanthropy in Challenging Times

When Rachel Presti and Jeremy Williams first met at Washington University as MD/PhD Immunology and Molecular Biophysics students they did not foresee, as Seattle and New York transplants, that they would still be in St. Louis 26 years later. But the Gateway City is where they pursued their passion to apply science to important challenges. Presti is an Associate Professor of Infectious Disease/Internal Medicine at Washington University and Williams is Head of Plant Biotechnology at Bayer. St. Louis is also home to their two children – Deryck (DJ) ’23, a sophomore at MICDS, and Isabelle (Izzy), a 7th grader at the St. Michael School of Clayton.

This is their second year at MICDS and in the spring when COVID-19 hit, they enthusiastically and quickly stepped forward to support the MICDS Ram Relief Fund.

Why is philanthropy important to you?

Williams: As I was growing up in Guyana in the 70s and 80s, the country went through an economic experience not unlike that of Venezuela today. Many years later, I remember clearly the help we received from friends and relatives that made a significant difference to our family during those difficult years. My undergraduate education at Swarthmore College was only possible because of the philanthropy of others which enabled a need-blind admissions process.

Presti: I also benefited from scholarship funding at Scripps College. The generosity of others allowed us both to pursue our scientific and medical passions with less regard for the need to pay back student loans.

“We give because we believe to whom much is given, much is required.”

Jeremy Williams

Why did you choose MICDS?

Williams: We were attracted to MICDS because of the rigorous education that challenges students and prepares them to excel at college and beyond. But it was always clear to us that this choice really should be DJ’s. He selected MICDS, despite it being a much larger school and separating from childhood friends, because he felt he would benefit from the tremendous resources for a quality education and an experience that would drive personal growth.

Presti: It is really the combination of the commitment to an inclusive environment, the strong emphasis on character and community, rigorous academics, and the recognition that sports and physical activity are indispensable to mental and physical health.

What inspires you to give and why did you choose the Ram Relief Fund?

Williams: We always intended to support the School as we recognize it is expensive to provide a high quality and diverse educational experience. And we are committed to making this caliber of education accessible to more families. I have been able to work from home and spend more time with the kids, while Rachel has been working at Washington University on clinical research on COVID-19. We were fortunate to be able to continue to work in these difficult times and wanted to give back.

Presti: We hope our giving will help ensure that no one will be forced to forgo an education at MICDS due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are so many people in difficult situations that could not have been planned for. We know that this stress is not just financial, so we hope that relieving some of that burden will help students at MICDS.

What impact do you hope your gift will achieve for MICDS?

Williams: To allow the School to continue to provide for a diverse student body, an enriching educational environment that challenges, shapes, and prepares them to become leaders for the world that is ahead of us.

What would you share with others about making a gift to MICDS?

Presti: Your giving is an investment in our future as a country and as a broader global community.

Williams: By giving back, you ensure the creation of a deep bench of future leaders able to successfully tackle the complexities of the 21st century. This is the legacy you are creating.