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Why I Give: Jill Braaten (B.A. '91)

How a sad situation has helped so many, including me.
February 4, 2019
Jill Braaten and Elizabeth Shippee
Jill Braaten and Elizabeth Shippee

Have you ever benefited from the kindness and generosity of someone else?

For me the answer is easy; I have benefited greatly. One particularly significant act of generosity came to me when I was a young student entering the Journalism School at the University of Minnesota, and it has impacted my life ever since.  

When I was a student, it took some time for me to settle on a major. But I knew I found my people when I chose journalism. I was a young photographer, keen on the idea that my eye, and sometimes my pen, could be a faithful conduit for the stories of others. My acceptance to the School was an important vote of confidence. I recall that my level of enthusiasm was high, but both confidence and cash were on the low side.

Now, let me tell you about another story that was going on just before all of this. There was a young and very talented photojournalism grad named David Shippee, who was at the beginning of his career as a photojournalist with the Idaho Statesman. An exciting opportunity arose to be the photo-documentarian of an expedition of the upper Yangtze River in China. Being both adventurous and ambitious, Dave jumped at the chance. The journey involved a rapid increase in elevation and tragically Dave fell ill to an elevation sickness that took his life. It’s hard to even fathom the devastation that Dave’s new wife and family felt and still feel. But, being the strong and special people that they are, they turned grief into grace and created a scholarship in his honor. And that is where our paths crossed.  

I was the second recipient of the David Shippee Memorial Scholarship - an act of kindness and generosity that changed the trajectory of my life forward. It couldn’t have come at a more necessary time. The funds were extremely helpful and the confidence it gave me by virtue of being chosen was priceless.

I’ve been fortunate to have a rewarding career in publishing and media and I count myself lucky to have a beautiful friendship with Dave’s enchanting mom Elizabeth. I hope this story illustrates the potential we all have to make a difference in the lives of others. The rewards for giving, whether large or small, are great. And I’m honored to now be a donor to the David Shippee Memorial Scholarship as well.

Jill Braaten (B.A. ‘91) works in Strategic Performance - Coaching & Development for Getty Images.

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