Citizen Developer Builds the Future

After decades creating homes for those in need, Rick Henken is doubling down on civic engagement through a multi-part gift to Tisch College.
Rick Henken

Rick Henken, A80, G81, is no ordinary real estate developer. As president of the Schochet Companies, a real estate development and management company, his main focus is on creating affordable housing for vulnerable populations, including seniors and low-income families. “Yes, the bottom line is important to me, but part of that needs to be thinking about how we can help our friends, neighbors, and the community,” Henken said.

Henken didn’t know exactly what to call this way of thinking—until seven or eight years ago, at a luncheon for the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, where Tisch College Senior Fellow Chris Swan spoke about his work building water systems abroad and engaging the community in the process. “The whole fabric of Tufts is giving back, and Tisch explicitly institutionalizes that,” said Henken, referring to the college’s mission to prepare students for lives of civic engagement. It’s important not just to be excellent in your field, but also to consider how you can help your community, he explained. “You’re not just an engineer—you’re a citizen engineer.”

Henken himself, he realized, was a citizen developer. So began his relationship with Tisch College, where he now serves on the Board of Advisors. He recently made a commitment to significantly increase his support for the Annual Fund for a period of five years and commit a portion of his estate to the Tisch College endowment. The gift is among the very first bequest intentions made to the Tisch College endowment and will allow future deans to use the income for the school’s highest priorities, including new initiatives, to test various models for engaging young people in civic life, and to integrate ideas that work at each of Tufts’ schools. Because Tisch initiatives reach across all campuses, teaching students to integrate a civic mindset into their work regardless of their career path, Henken’s gift will be far-reaching. “I am so impressed by and committed to the great work Tisch does,” Henken said. “This was where I felt I could have the most direct impact on the largest number of students.”

Together with another planned gift from an alumni couple who have asked to remain anonymous, Henken’s gift will bolster Tisch College as a force for good in the world long into the future—even more so because it combines Annual Fund support with an unrestricted endowment contribution. By both affording the dean the flexibility to pursue new initiatives and providing a large planned commitment, Henken is giving Tisch—still a relatively new college—a sense of future security. “It’s such a great benefit to the institution to know that funding will be there,” Henken said. “And it’s very rewarding to know that a portion of my estate will go toward helping Tufts students build a brighter world.”

Alan Solomont, the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of Tisch College, expressed gratitude for both Henken’s gift and his service on the board. “Tisch College is leading the charge to equip the next generation with the skills and knowledge for a robust civic life, regardless of their career path,” Solomont said. “Rick’s current and future support allows us to grow Tufts’ commitment to civically engaged graduates well into the future.”

Henken made his gift for the same reason that he frequently connects Tisch Scholars with service opportunities on his affordable housing properties. “I want to help launch the next generation of citizen developers creating affordable housing, citizen engineers building water systems in Africa, and citizen lawyers working pro bono,” said Henken, who encouraged other alumni to join him in supporting Tisch. “I would love for the number of students touched by Tisch College to grow, and for Tisch to develop an even greater presence as a thought leader in civic education and engagement.”




Investing in Tufts’ Future


Rick Henken, A80, AG81, has joined a burgeoning group of individuals who are providing for the future of Tisch College. The Charles Tufts Society—a recognition society honoring those who have included any part of the University in their estate or gift plans—has seen strong growth in recent years.

This group of forward-looking supporters has more than 1,600 members, including alumni, friends, parents, faculty, and staff from each of Tufts’ schools. Alumni members range from the class of 1936 to the class of 2015.

Planned gifts have shaped Tufts University literally from the ground up—a portion of the Medford/Somerville campus was a bequest from Charles Tufts. Contributions through gift annuities, charitable trusts, and estate plans have been creating opportunities for students and professors, fueling research, and transforming Tufts’ campuses ever since.

Planned gifts are also an important part of the current Brighter World campaign. We are well on our way towards meeting our campaign goal of welcoming 1,000 new members into the Charles Tufts Society, as more than 660 new members have joined since the start of the campaign.  In addition, many planned gifts can be counted towards the campaign’s fundraising goals with some simple documentation.

If you are interested in supporting Tisch College or other university priorities, we invite you to learn more about planned gifts—and to let us know if you’ve already provided for future generations of Jumbos—by contacting the Gift Planning Office at or 888-748-8387.