Donna Robinson Esteves RSC ’70

25 Feb 2015, by Thel Vadam in Featured Donors

Chair, Sage’s Centennial Campaign;
Member and Immediate Past Chair, The Sage Colleges Board of Trustees

Educator, Energy Entrepreneur and Philanthropist


Positive Energy

Donna majored in English at Russell Sage College and taught grade school in the Louisiana bayou and high school and junior college in the New Orleans suburbs before returning to her native New Jersey and changing careers – first to sales and marketing, and then to energy conservation. Her husband, Rich, had started his own company, SESCO, Inc., retrofitting residential buildings to conserve energy. When his company was offered residential lighting work, he passed, on the grounds that it wasn’t cost effective. Donna disagreed, and started her own company, Free Lighting Corp., to provide energy-efficient lighting for homes. Before she sold her business in 2001, Free Lighting had grown into the largest energy conservation contractor of its kind in the U.S. “The self-confidence that developed while I received the personal education that The Sage Colleges is known for has been the distinctive and decisive element that empowered me to excel at the expected, adapt to the unexpected, and ultimately, to be successful in my life. Sage’s Centennial Campaign offers each of us a chance to honor the past and help secure future excellence through a gift to Sage, maybe even a gift of a lifetime.”

For Donna, “MORE” Means Making History

When Donna made her gift of a lifetime – $10 million, the largest gift to Sage, ever – during the campaign’s silent phase, it positioned the Centennial Campaign to become the most successful fundraising effort in Sage’s history. Her transformative gift will provide support for Sage’s School of Education – now known as the Esteves School of Education – and for facilities renovations and the endowment.

Donna is chair of the Centennial Campaign for Sage. She is immediate past chair of The Sage Colleges Board of Trustees, on which she has served since 2005.

In 2010, Donna led a successful $1.5 million matching gift challenge to build Sage’s endowment. In 2005, her leadership gift funded chemistry labs for the INVEST incubator at Russell Sage College and in 2002, she established the Edith E. Robinson Memorial Scholarship Fund, in memory of her mother which has provided support to 21 Education students.


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