Legacy, Impact Motivate Family Giving
Michael and Mairead Smialek met in Troy while he was a student at Rensselaer and she attended Russell Sage.
"We feel incredibly lucky that we were able to meet," Mairead says. "We have a tremendous circle of friends, and we both feel our college experiences helped us become pretty successful. We want to give back because we have this great life."
Today, the Smialeks have been married for more than 23 years. They've given regularly to both schools after Mairead was inspired by another donor.
"I started thinking, ‘Wow, education has changed our lives, and we should just start donating every month to both schools,'" Mairead says. "It's kind of contagious."
Also contagious in the Smialek family was a love of Troy—and Rensselaer. Daughter Fiona is a sophomore there. Michael says his daughter chose RPI because she liked the atmosphere and her parents' stories.
Michael earned a bachelor's ('90) and a master's ('92) in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer and is currently a principal cloud architect for Amazon.
"You're happy when your kid is happy, and she's happy there. We love it because we get to go back," says Mairead, who is student services coordinator at Resurrection University.
The Smialeks' donations are dedicated toward scholarships because a scholarship helped Michael's dad with his education.
"We've all benefited from his father's success," Mairead says. "That's all because someone somewhere provided the financial support that enabled his father to complete his degrees."
The couple also planned a legacy gift to Rensselaer through their estate. They chose Rensselaer because the Institute shaped Michael's career and provided knowledge he still uses today. They also trust Rensselaer to use their gift wisely, Michael says.
"I think it's just about legacy and leaving an impact," Mairead says. "It's just a continuation of something we do every month."