Blazing New Trails: Phi Kappa Phi's New Benefactor Program

Danny Heitman
Jul 11, 2023

As a Life Member of Phi Kappa Phi, Gagan Chopra has embraced the Society’s motto, “Let the love of learning rule humanity.”

It’s an ideal that drew him to join Phi Kappa Phi at Iowa State University in 1991, and it’s guided his work as a successful technology executive. When Chopra learned of a new opportunity to support the Society as a Benefactor, he didn’t hesitate to answer the call.

Chopra is among dozens of Phi Kappa Phi members who have become Benefactors. The campaign, still in its early stages, is poised to attract much wider support.

Dr. Candice Castro, like Chopra, has been a Life Member of Phi Kappa Phi, and she quickly agreed to become a Benefactor after the new program was announced. Castro, now retired after serving as a U.S. Army surgeon and instructor of physician assistants, said she’s frequently asked to support various causes. For Castro, who was initiated into Phi Kappa Phi at University of Texas at San Antonio, helping Phi Kappa Phi seemed natural. “Why not include an organization with this philosophy?” she asked.

The new Benefactor tier for Society members enables them to deepen their engagement with the Society beyond its Life Member designation. Through the Benefactor program unveiled earlier this year, Phi Kappa Phi leaders are seeking to increase investment in the Society’s traditional pillars of scholarship and service. They’re also aiming to strengthen support for campus chapters, which are the Society’s lifeblood, and committing to new initiatives to expand outreach and awareness of Phi Kappa Phi’s mission. Additionally, Benefactors are helping to provide critical resources for a new strategic plan for the Society.

“By recognizing talent in individuals at early stages of their lives, Phi Kappa Phi ignites a sense of faith in one’s own self, which brings confidence and impetus to pursue learning and doing,” said Chopra, a program manager with Bing team at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.  “And collectively, this pushes our global society forward. As a Phi Kappa Phi Benefactor, we have an opportunity to magnify its essential role.”

Castro’s work as a military surgeon, instructor, and volunteer exemplifies the “learning and doing” that Chopra stressed as the heart of Phi Kappa Phi’s mission. In retirement, she went back to school and obtained a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. “I have been volunteering for Catholic Charities since 2018, teaching English to refugees,” Castro said. “They are currently from the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. I find the teaching to be personally rewarding. Having deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, I was interested in the languages of Pashto and Arabic.”

In 2022, Phi Kappa Phi marked the 125th anniversary of its founding. Since its creation at the University of Maine in 1897, the Society has grown to include more than 320 chapters at campuses in the United States and abroad. Each year, the Society awards more than $1.3 million in awards and benefits to deserving scholars. Phi Kappa Phi boasts about 100,000 members around the world, a powerful bank of intellectual capital to globally advance innovation and service.

The recent observance of a landmark birthday for Phi Kappa Phi deepened reflection among its leadership team about how the Society can live and grow in the next 125 years and beyond. The Benefactor program is a key part of sustaining and strengthening Phi Kappa Phi for future generations.

“Phi Kappa Phi has thrived for more than 125 years because of the generosity of its donors,” said Bradley Newcomer, the Society’s executive director and CEO. “I’m deeply grateful to those who have already agreed to help the Society expand its reach as part of our recently launched Benefactor program. I know that many others will seize the opportunity to embrace this new form of engagement with Phi Kappa Phi.”

The Benefactor Program complements other recent efforts to raise awareness of giving opportunities within Phi Kappa Phi and educate members about how the Society’s mission is empowering the best and the brightest to build the 21st century.

In its spring 2023 issue, the Society’s Forum magazine launched a “Facing Forward” series of public service advertising that highlights Phi Kappa Phi members who are doing good in the world. The inaugural ad featured Aaron McFarlane, who received a Phi Kappa Phi Love of Learning Award that helped support his research to fight multiple sclerosis. McFarlane, initiated into Phi Kappa Phi at Florida Atlantic University, is now a student at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Because of their special role in advancing Phi Kappa Phi’s mission, Benefactors will be listed and recognized in upcoming issues of Forum, in other Society publications and social media platforms, and at special events.

For more information about the Benefactor program, members can visit

“I’d also like to thank our National Board of Directors for advancing this new initiative,” Newcomer said. “The support of our Benefactors will help Phi Kappa Phi increase the help it extends to ambitious scholars, strengthen its campus chapters, expand its outreach to other stakeholders, and create a strategic plan to map the Society’s future. I can’t thank our Benefactors enough for blazing this new trail for Phi Kappa Phi.”