A Commitment to Building a Greater Community

The theme for this year’s Virtual Gala 2020 is “A Gift of Music to the Community,” and its sentiment rings very true for our corporate sponsor, Wernau Asset Management. In a conversation with Peter Wernau, WAM’s founder and CEO, and wife Thi Linh, the two shared their philosophy for the business and the family’s personal philanthropy—doing well and doing good.

Married for 22 years, Peter and Thi Linh Wernau met in college at The University of Notre Dame and worked together in multiple firms, including Deloitte and Hill Holliday, before Peter started his own firm. The two have always felt great responsibility to share their time, talent, and treasure, and hope that their efforts show others can do the same.  Thi Linh, whose role is Chief Giving Officer for the Wernau Family Office, knows that giving can take many forms depending on one’s life situation.  “From a personal perspective, we have always given back, but in the early years, it was more time and talent, because we didn’t have a lot of money,” says Thi.

The two expressed great appreciation for all of those individuals, including teachers, mentors, and family members who provided opportunities for them to grow and excel. As a result, they hope to give back and provide those same opportunities for the next generation.

The Wernaus value many worthy causes, but focus their charitable efforts in three areas—music and the arts; education and youth; and veterans and their families.

Their interest in supporting music and the arts is right in line with their giving philosophy because music creates what they call common unity (a play on the word “community”), which they define as values that unite us all as human beings. Says Thi, “Music is humanity. It connects us in a deeply personal way that everybody can connect on.  This is one of the reasons Rockport Music is important to us. It connects us.”

For Peter, the commitment of an organization is one of the attributes he looks for in prioritizing their philanthropy. “If we are going to get involved in a cause, we like to associate ourselves with other people of goodwill—people who are really committed to something and who care about it deeply—and that is clearly present in this organization, and beyond any organization I’ve been a part of,” says Peter.

Rockport Music’s place in the community and its beloved reputation also factored into the decision. “Rockport Music is a beacon within our community by sharing music, as well as the organization’s work in the public schools…people beam when they talk about it. It’s a pillar of the community and supporting something like that is really important.” Of course when deciding on philanthropy, one’s own passions and interests play a large role. So it didn’t hurt that Peter has a deep love and passion for music, himself being a pianist and songwriter.

Peter is impressed with Rockport Music’s impact, both with educational and community enrichment. The musical development of Cape Ann children and their exposure to the hall and its music is something that he finds particularly impactful. “These programs and the access to the hall for the students has been life changing, in ways we may not see for another 20 years,” says Peter.  “As these kids go on to colleges and conservatories, we can know that their development was impacted by this organization.” He also adds that “there has been a tremendous economic improvement to the town as a result of the Shalin Liu as well.”

Peter and Thi realize that everyone must follow their own distinct path in philanthropy, but they feel it is beneficial to share their philosophy of giving back for the betterment of our communities around the world. “We don’t necessarily want people to do exactly what we do, but we encourage others to use their talents to help their community,” says Peter. “Your support is more important now than ever before…the extent we can work together can make the difference.”

Photo Credit: Rog Walker