Ever since he can remember, Mike Pojman ’71 wanted to be a teacher. He remembers being inspired by teachers at Saint Ignatius High School, especially in English and Chemistry classes. And he loved being immersed in a place where students were taken seriously, and where the biggest distinction was being either an East sider or West sider, not whether your family had money or didn’t. “The school fit all the values my family had. I loved that it was not a rich kid’s school,” says Pojman. “And in the classroom, I felt challenged but never overwhelmed.”
Pojman remembers becoming a better writer because of his English teacher Tom McCauley and he discovered a love of chemistry from teacher Mary Jane Treichel, inspiring him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at John Carroll University. While teaching for five years at University School, he attended a life-changing master’s program during summers at St. John’s College in New Mexico. It was there he absorbed the Socratic method that would become the cornerstone of his teaching. “I learned that even in science it’s all about questions, not answers.” Today he continues to share his passion for teaching in a 40-year career as a Chemistry and English teacher and assistant headmaster at The Roxbury Latin School for boys in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Starting an early routine of giving back
Right out of college, Pojman began making modest donations to Saint Ignatius and has continued to give consistently over the past 45 years. He has supported the school’s annual fund, capital projects, fine arts, the Jesuit mission, The Welsh Academy and the recent Family Tuition Relief Fund for families affected economically by COVID-19. His consistent gifts have added up to a lifetime total of $50,000.
Asked why he made this early and intentional decision to give to the school, Pojman says, “I believe in the future, and kids are
the future. For the sake of our lives, their lives, and our country, we need to find a way to launch kids. Boys who can go to Saint Ignatius or Roxbury Latin, which is a very similar school, have a huge opportunity. But it costs more to educate them than the tuition can pay. If somebody doesn’t fill that gap, there are boys who can’t go. I can tell you firsthand because I’ve worked with kids all my life, it makes a huge difference. It’s worth it.”
Pojman also designated a $160,000 bequest in his will to support the school’s endowment fund designated for tuition assistance. “Long after I’m gone, there will still be a need. The school’s going to outlast all of us. I’m not interested in getting credit for this. To me, it just matters that it happens,” says Pojman. “If you trust that the school is on the right path and using resources wisely, which I do, then you take a leap of faith and say that will still be true in 20 or 30 years.”
Ways to make a difference
Jeff McCormick ’83, Director of Development and Planned Giving, sees Pojman as an example of the power of consistent giving. “Like many others, Mike is a loyal donor who has found a way to give to the school that works for him and doesn’t take the bulk of an estate.”
McCormick explains that half of all Saint Ignatius students receive tuition assistance, amounting to $8 million in the previous school year – with the total impact of COVID-19 still unknown for the coming year and beyond. “We go year-to-year meeting financial needs of our families. The restricted 5 percent we draw from our endowment only provides about half of what’s needed for tuition assistance. That’s why we need the Annual Fund, scholarship drive and other fundraising. Without those, we couldn’t be the school we are and make Saint Ignatius accessible to all students who want to come here.”
While many people can’t give a large amount to support tuition assistance, they can leave enough in their will to perpetuate their Annual Fund giving far into the future. “From life insurance policies that are no longer needed to a small portion of an IRA – there are many ways to give for the future that we just don’t think about when living paycheck to paycheck or during uncertain times,” says McCormick. “And giving a small chunk of a total estate, for example $10,000, usually won’t take away from what’s given to family. We try to educate alumni and other donors about these ideas to perpetuate their gift to Saint Ignatius.”
Approximately 13 percent of Saint Ignatius alumni donate consistently to the school. Pojman says he realizes that many alumni believe they can’t give enough to make a difference or choose not to give because they aren’t happy with a specific decision, capital expenditure or policy at the school. “But I think you have to say, ‘This money goes to an individual. For him, it makes a difference,’ and put all the rest aside,” says Pojman. “I’m not a huge donor, but I’m a consistent donor. The school makes it clear to me that they value the commitment as much as the amount. And that has a profound effect.”
To learn more about planned giving visit: http://plannedgiving.ignatius.edu/. To discuss options that may work for you, contact Jeff McCormick ’83 at email@example.com or call 216-281-4377.