Skip to main content


Honors & Awards
February 22, 2010

Russell Simmons Donates Volpe Lecture Speaker Fee to Haiti

With Rainy Season Coming, Hip Hop Pioneer Says Tents Will Save Thousands of Lives

Even before he took the stage as the spring 2010 speaker for the Thomas J. Volpe Lecture Series at St. Francis College, Hip Hop Pioneer and entrepreneur Russell Simmons had taught everyone at the College a valuable lesson on Monday, February 22. He told Mr. Volpe, he was donating his entire speakers fee for the event to buy tents for people living in Haiti.

(Watch the story on SFCTV)

Mr. Simmons noted that with the rainy season coming soon, and many people's home still in shambles from the earthquake, the downpours will mean certain death for thousands of Haitians unless they can get some sort of shelter.

"When Russell Simmons so casually offered his fee to help the people of Haiti, he showed exactly why we wanted him to come to St. Francis College to talk with our students," said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean Timothy J. Houlihan. "He put into action one of the basic rules he lives by, which is also part of the Franciscan Tradition we try to teach to all of our students, to be of service to others."

During the lecture Simmons (who tweeted the event while onstage) spoke about the keys to his success, talking about the importance of meditation as a way to slow things down and reflect, and to let go of the anxiety that clouds many people's minds. Simmons also talked about the importance of giving.

"We're here for a short time. People who are happy with what they have are rich," Simmons told the crowd, previewing a chapter from his upcoming book that attempts to redefine what it means to be rich. "Put the worry about the work and its results aside. When you focus on the work, that's the gift itself. The pay is the work," he said. At the same time Simmons said, if you want a Rolls Royce, you can get that too, but you might find that after focusing and achieving, you may no longer even want the Rolls.

"Giving back is of primary importance to Mr. Simmons in all aspects of life and as Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the recording industry, fashion, television, financial services, and jewelry sectors to give back," said Thomas J. Volpe, series founder and Chairman Emeritus of the St. Francis College Board of Trustees. "Mr. Simmons is a modern-day Renaissance man and one of the most innovative and influential figures in modern American business and culture. I am honored to have had him continue the tradition of this lecture series."

After talking for a short time to the crowd, Simmons sat for an informal question and answer session with St. Francis College Director of Athletics Irma Garcia '80, Communication Arts student Aliyah Edwards '11 and Communication Arts student and Men's Basketball team power forward Herman Wrice '10. The three peppered Simmons with their own questions and those culled from more than 200 submitted ahead of time by people attending the lecture.

Simmons left the audience with inspirational words about how to become successful, stressing that living in the moment is paramount to happiness, "Who you want to be is a farce. All you have is this moment," he said. "All the future and the past is noise. Any minute you can change your destiny. In one single prayer you can become enlightened. You can become completely at ease."

Guest speakers of the Volpe Lecture Series offer an international perspective in a variety of fields to the St. Francis College community; from business leaders to world leaders. Past speakers include Salman Rushdie (author), Mariane Pearl (wife of slain reporter Daniel Pearl), Paul Rusesabagina (the real Hotel Rwanda hero), Lech Walesa (former President of Poland, Nobel Prize winner) and George Mitchell (former U.S. Senator, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, baseball steroids report).

The lecture series is funded by a generous gift from Thomas J. Volpe, a former Senior Vice President of Financial Operations for The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. Volpe also serves as Chairman Emeritus of the St. Francis College Board of Trustees.

USA Today recently named Russell Simmons one of the "Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years," calling him a "hip-hop pioneer" for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, finance, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy. From creating his seminal Def Jam Recordings in 1984, to the 2007 publishing of his New York Times best-seller Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, Russell is recognized globally for his influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy. A devoted yogi and social activist, Russell also leads the non-profit division of his empire, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing commitment to empowering at-risk youth through education, the arts, and social engagement and was instrumental in the recent overturning of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Russell also serves as UN Goodwill Ambassador For The Permanent Memorial To Honor The Victims Of Slavery and The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

This site uses cookies

We use cookies to improve user experience and analyze website traffic. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.