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Tom and Barbara Dickson

Inspiring Generosity

When Sun Devil parents Tom and Barbara Dickson gave a $7,500 matching gift to the Sun Devil Family Association’s Emergency Crisis Fund, they knew it would be used to help students in the most dire of need stay in school.

What they didn’t know was how it would inspire other families. In just four days, an outpouring of donors fully matched the $7,500 gift.

“This is a tremendous statement about the ASU community,” says Tom, whose daughter Cassandra Dickson attends Barrett, The Honors College.

Their generosity, and that of matching donors, will be used to support ASU students in crisis who have exhausted other options. Administered by the dean of students on each of ASU’s four campuses, the SDFA Emergency Crisis Fund is often the only way many struggling students stay in school.

The matching gift is just one of the ways the Dicksons, who live in Pittsburg, PA, help people weather tough financial times. Tom founded Neighbors in Need, a nonprofit that helps Pittsburg residents in crisis when they have nowhere else to turn. “We’ve helped keep folks in their homes,” says Tom. “We’ve helped turn the water or heat back on and helped others keep their jobs.”

Guided by the principle that those in need are often living right next door to us, Neighbors in Need has issued fifty-five grants to Pittsburg families facing basic-need crisis. Throughout the years, Neighbors in Need has assisted families with mortgage or rent payments, utility payments, transportation, and medical bills.

In many ways you could say that the Dickson’s charitable spirit runs in the family. Just as the Dickson’s gift inspired so many to give, Tom was inspired by his mother to found Neighbors in Need.
“I started the crisis fund for several reasons,” Says Tom. “One is because my mother, despite our modest income, was always trying to help others. Two, I think I inherited that gene. So it has always bothered me that there are so many that struggle mightily while so many of us—my wife and I included—can help. We have been blessed. By no means are we super wealthy but I do believe we have a responsibility to help those in need.”

To make your gift to the SDFA Emergency Crisis Fund, go to or call 480-965-0830.

To request the Emergency Crisis Fund application, or to find out more information, please contact or call 480-965-6547.

To learn more about Neighbors in Need, please visit or call 412-441-1272.

building family community, supporting student success

The ASU Sun Devil Family Association is a nationwide network of ASU families dedicated to sustaining family involvement in student education and supporting programs and services that enrich the university experience. Learn more »