Getting to know Evalyn Gleason; An Accomplished Philanthropist Working From The Heart

Getting to know Evalyn Gleason; An Accomplished Philanthropist Working From The Heart
evalyn obama cropped

Evalyn Gleason across from President Barack Obama at Magnolia’s, August 22nd, 2013. See A seat at the President’s table three years later Photos courtesy of Evalyn.

You first met Che in Rochester works for actor Che Holloway, an impromptu interview and amble through the Neighborhood of the Arts.

An aspiring and successful actor, Che is deeply immersed in the Rochester cultural scene. So much so, we’ve named him Che of The Town!

Exclusively for Talker, Che has solicited and is conducting interviews from about 50 Rochestarians working in a diversity of creative fields.

For the full series, see Che of The Town: Interviews

Che is a proud graduate of the School of the Art and has featured many SOTA alums, including Britton Bradford, Kayoz Fortune, Ajani Jeffries, Marguerite Frarey, Willie “El Mongoose” Monroe Jr., Willis Ajamu Brooks , James Kegler and Taye Diggs. Che also highlighted four members of the SOTA theater department: Lorrie Dewey, Michelle Accorso Sapere, Ed Myers and Luke Fellows.


Evalyn Gleason (LinkedIn)

obama cropped more

Evalyn with President Barack Obama at Magnolia’s, August 22nd, 2013. See A seat at the President’s table three years later Photos courtesy of Evalyn.

Today, Che interviews another SOTA alum, Evalyn Gleason, a Grants Coordinator for the Golisano Foundation.

We are especially pleased to introduce Evalyn because she is also a Talker subscriber (see right).  Recently, I spoke with Evalyn who loves to attend local events and take photos. So, we may soon hearing more from Evalyn Of The Town!

I also learned that Evalyn was at Magnolia’s on August 22nd, 2013, where we go every year for the presidential visits to Rochester series.

Getting to know Evalyn Gleason; An Accomplished Philanthropist Working From The Heart

In this highlight we turn our attention to Evalyn Gleason, a native philanthropist inspiring and making a difference within the community and beyond.

I asked Evalyn a series of questions. Here is what we discussed.

Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended etc.

I am a proud Rochestarian through and through. I was born and raised on the east side of the Flour City and attended School of the Arts with a focus in instrumental music. I didn’t stray far for college when I decided to enroll at the University of Rochester to study Political Science and was able to take a semester to focus on Human Rights while studying in London.evalyn 7 comp

What inspired you to get into philanthropy? Early experiences worth sharing?

I have always enjoyed helping others. I have worked in non-profit my entire career, so far, and have always reveled in the social interactions that come along with this type of work. My first position out of college was working for AmeriCorp VISTA in Philadelphia. I have long carried a passion for equitable education and found an opportunity to work on post-secondary success with high schoolers in Philadelphia through Temple University as the College Access Coordinator. For a long time I had political ambitions. Those ambitions are not entirely gone, but for the time being I enjoy working in the public sector and being a “connector” of people and organizations.

Philanthropy itself kind of found me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy being in a funder’s role that allows me a “bird’s eye view” of the various programs and outcomes that are happening within the intellectual and developmental disability community. I very much enjoy the interactions that I am able to have because of this role and also to see very tangible outcomes that are truly making an impact. It allows me to combine and collaborate the efforts of various individuals and organizations to create maximum impact and positive outcomes.

Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.

Fortunately, I have not experienced much adversity in my life. I have never felt that there was much standing in the way of achieving my goals. Most barriers come from within and the incredible pressure that I place on myself to work harder and do more. Tenacity can be a wonderful asset but also a tiring pursuit of the next challenge.evalyn 2 comp

What do you believe sets you apart from other individuals involved in philanthropy/non-profit?

I am incredibly lucky to work in a field filled with individuals that are talented and dedicated to this work. There is no lack of passion amongst people who work for and on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I have the pleasure of learning and working with people every day that offer insights and tools that help me be the best I can be in this role. What sets me apart is the role itself. Working for the Golisano Foundation has allowed me to work on so many projects that have impacted and are impacting the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. Projects that I work on range from access to equitable health care to employment opportunities for this population. The motto of the Golisano Foundation is “Imagine the Possibilities.” Every day, I get to do just that. Possibilities of more acceptance and inclusion of all people with all abilities. Not only because it is my job, but because I truly believe in a world where we can all be more open to differences.evalyn 4 comp

Do you have other interests or hobbies?

In my free time I still pursue my more creative and artistic passions. Playing my instruments, listening to live music, snapping pictures around town and attending social events are a few places you can find me on the weekends. Since moving back to Rochester I have also been attempting to delve into the booming restaurant, festival and brewery scene. Rochester has really taken off with cultural opportunities and I very much enjoy exploring all of its new (and old) offerings.

Being a Rochester native, what brought you back here and what have you seen change?

I moved back to Rochester almost two years ago when I was offered my current position. I have struggled a lot over the years to stay in Rochester or to go. There are so many wonderful things about this city, but truthfully it has been a big struggle for me to adjust back into Rochester life. I have recently worked on embracing all of the happenings around town and trying to get my friends to join me on as many of them as possible.evalyn 6 comp

One thing that I have noticed is the growing number of young professionals. There seems to be a lot more options that are attracting the younger generation and keeping them here. While many people may leave, they often come back as well. I have been impressed with the growing number of culinary options as well as the number of options for weekend activities. I see this city growing and starting to offer larger city options in a more community based setting. I suspect in the next few years we will see an even bigger boom of options and activities.

Any projects you have out or currently working on?

Most of the big projects I am working on are through work. However, I have recently taken on more leadership roles by joining some boards and volunteering on various community projects. I recently joined the associate board of the Center for Youth and I am very excited to be a part of that. Keep an eye out for some fun fundraising events in the coming months!

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

In five years, I hope that I am happy, healthy and fulfilled. I have a lot of goals that I am working towards, but I find that just being open to opportunities and possibilities lends itself to a more exciting journey. Over the next five years, I hope to inspire others to get involved in their communities, to work on social impact initiatives and strive for a more equitable society. I hope to travel and experience what the world has to offer and continue to work on projects that create positive change.evalyn 3 comp

I hope to one day start my own consulting business to aid non-profits in achieving their goals and intended impact. While that project still has a lot of “marinating” to do, it’s being worked on as a long term project. I hope that by doing so, I can work on more international initiatives and work in more communities to create more systems change.

What advice can you give to other individuals wanting to get involved with their community?

Just do it! Step outside your comfort zone and work on something that you are passionate about. Rochester has such an array of volunteer opportunities that greatly benefit the community. Be a mentor, go to a community center and volunteer as a coach or just interact with people in your community that you may not know. Building community starts with communication and collaboration.evalyn 5 comp

If you’re looking to build a career that benefits the community, look at the various organizations that serve the community. You may need to start as a volunteer to get your foot in the door, but by making those connections and networking you can find a position that will match your passions and talents. The opportunities are boundless and there is still a lot of work to be done.

How can we follow along in your journey? Social media?

Most of my personal travels and adventure can be found on Instagram. To see what the Golisano Foundation is pursuing and the work we are doing, you can follow along on the Facebook page and website.

Instagram: Evalyngleason




Our first submission! “November” by Olivia Spenard, Creative Writing Program, School of the Arts

SOTA’s Kenny “Cruz Control:” from a Silverhawk to a Scarlet Knight

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts


%d bloggers like this: