Inspired to ask a simple question, one donor has made a tremendous impact on Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.
For 20 memorable years, Rhoda Mast and her husband Ora lived in New York City and Long Island. Ora worked with Pan American World Airlines, and Rhoda was a secretary, working for 18 of those years with lawyer Robert Slaughter.
“I had never met anyone quite like Mr. Slaughter,” said Rhoda. “I was told when I was hired that he could be quite difficult.”
However, their working relationship turned into a deep connection based on mutual respect and shared values. And as one does when working closely together, Rhoda got to know his family, which included four sons.
“Mr. Slaughter,” as Rhoda still calls him to this day, was also managing director of The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, named for his late stepfather. Rhoda assisted him with maintaining the files for the foundation.
Rhoda shares: “I learned several things from Mr. Slaughter, including the statement, ‘You don’t know unless you ask.’ Mr. Slaughter would ask for all kinds of things, and sometimes he would get them, sometimes not. That is not a bad principle to live by!”
This sentiment led Rhoda to wonder whether the foundation might be interested in supporting CJP. “Ora and I have contributed to CJP since 2004 and strongly believe in CJP’s compelling mission, so why not ask others to join us?”
She worked with CJP development staff to submit the first grant application in 2009.
Because of Rhoda’s advocacy, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation has made regular grants of $25,000 to $30,000 to support scholarships to participants at CJP’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute. Since 2010, more than 180 participants from 49 countries have been able to attend SPI because of these grants. This year marks the 10th year of these significant contributions to SPI’s scholarship program.
Rhoda has continued her friendship with the Slaughter family over these many years, and recently visited Robert’s son William at his Philadelphia law practice.
“The Slaughters are Jewish and I am Christian, but we all want to work for the common good,” she said. “I am grateful for the Goldsmith Foundation’s contributions to the important work of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.”