May 28, 2024

Successful Grant Maker Reflects on how PBA Taught her to Give Back

PBA News

Wendy Oliver grew up in Panama and spent the first 17 years of her life dreaming about coming to the United States. She enrolled as a communications student at Palm Beach Atlantic University in 1992 because it encompassed everything she had always envisioned about America. The beautiful environment, welcoming people, and strong curriculum were all things she had fantasized about while living in Panama.  

Shortly after starting her journey at PBA, she was inspired by a presentation given by Mr. David Rinker in one of her business classes. A successful businessman, Rinker told the class a story about going to the bank for the first time after making a million dollars. Rinker’s charisma and passion inspired Oliver. She was very grateful Rinker had taken time out of his day to motivate a group of college students. 

“For me, it was pivotal and tangible to hear from professionals working in the field. I’m a visual learner, so my learning started with what the professional was wearing, what they said, and the real-world examples given,” Oliver said.  

Oliver recently had a chance to thank Rinker personally at a donor event for Place of Hope for inspiring her to be a professional who strives to give back to their community. Rinker was delighted to hear from her and retold the story he had given to the class that day. Oliver thought it was a lovely and meaningful interaction for her and everyone who witnessed it.  

“It was imperative that I honor him for giving his time and talent to a school that has meant so much in my life,” Oliver said.  

After her second year at PBA, Oliver married an Italian count and moved to Europe. When she returned, she finished her communications bachelor’s degree at Florida Atlantic University and earned a master’s from Stetson University.  

Professional Development and Commitment to Philanthropy 

She currently serves as Executive Director of the VoLo Foundation, a private family foundation for philanthropy in West Palm Beach and oversees annual grant-making. She is able to use the lessons she learned at PBA in and out of the classroom about the importance of giving back every day in her professional life.  

The Workship program played a crucial role in igniting Oliver’s passion for giving back by giving her many opportunities to volunteer with her community. While in school, she signed up for as many group projects as possible, which included helping a local radio station and painting old houses. These fond memories of community service led Oliver to pursue a career where she could give back daily by creating grants.  

“The experiences were all life-changing, fun, and part of who I am today. Workship helped me get out into the community and represent PBA as a student, a Christian, and someone who cares for others,” Oliver said.  

Oliver advises all current PBA students to get the most out of their education by seizing opportunities to grow academically, spiritually, and personally by working hard, getting involved in the community, and making strong friendships. She hopes all students can embrace their time at PBA and excel as they work towards their bright future.  

Interested in a career that will allow you give back? View the programs offered at PBA here. 


Photo: Dr. David Rinker, Wendy Oliver, Dr. Leighan R. Rinker

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