President’s Magis Scholarship Initiative Surpasses $10M
Through scholarship support, benefactors pay it forward
to future Hawks.
A short, three-word phrase that carries considerable weight to so many, “pay it forward” infers doing for others what was once done for you. As the lifeblood of a Catholic, Jesuit education, scholarships breathe life into the phrase.
One of the first undertakings during the tenure of University President C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J. ’72, the President’s Magis Scholarship Initiative aims to make Saint Joseph’s Catholic, Jesuit education affordable and accessible to more deserving students. Many members of the SJU community have answered the call, and by doing so, are paying it forward.
The initiative crossed the $10 million threshold this year, thanks to $6.4 million in new commitments. Since its launch in 2012, the initiative has achieved total revenue of $10.3 million as of June 30, 2014, $6 million of which has come from 38 newly established scholarships.
When Fr. Gillespie reflects upon the impact of philanthropy, he often begins with his own story of falling in love with Saint Joseph’s when his brother took him to basketball games. But his more recent memories, such as the Class of 1964 singing the University fight song at Commencement 2014, have become part of a broader shared story.
“What I witness repeatedly is the current generation of students being supported by past students…the past leading the passion,” Fr. Gillespie said. “The alumni who are passionate about giving to the next generation can then see their passion transformed into compassion through Saint Joseph’s education and service programs. Our new students become part of this cycle of giving the moment they arrive.”
“I just love being around them.”
Saint Joseph’s Professor Maria Marsilio, Ph.D., the director of the Honors and Classics programs, has a unique perspective on scholarship. As a recipient, educator and benefactor, she has experienced firsthand the power of paying it forward.
“Whether scholarships are awarded for academic excellence, financial need or the need and desire to serve, they transform lives,” she said.
Her parents Arthur and Gloria “worked hard and gave their three children the gift of a college education,” she said. Marsilio earned a small scholarship to the College of New Rochelle for academic excellence and her service orientation. The scholarship lessened the burden on her parents and gave her confidence to succeed.
“I found through scholarship a very meaningful encouragement of my academic and spiritual growth,” she said.
Marsilio feels joy and gratitude when she works with students who have been given incentives through scholarship to work hard and commit to a lifetime of learning. Recruiting and retaining high achieving students raises the academic profile of the institution and offering substantial scholarship packages aids in that process. There is something about those students that makes them a joy to have in the classroom, according to Marsilio.
“I just love being around them,” she said. “They want to engage in debate or find ways to learn more. They think deeply about ideas and problems in their course work. I find this so inspiring and energizing.”
Marsilio established the Arthur R. Marsilio Memorial Scholarship at Saint Joseph’s with her mother in 2004. The scholarship has evolved from benefiting a student traveling abroad to aiding students in the Honors program.
“A scholarship is an important investment in the intellectual, spiritual and personal growth of a young person who is already a remarkable human being and has extraordinary potential for greater achievement,” she said.
A Win-Win Proposition
Rosalind Reichard, Ph.D., is a career educator. A mathematics professor turned administrator, Saint Joseph’s interim provost is the former president of Emory & Henry College (Va.) and held administrative roles at Meredith College (N.C.) and Elon University (N.C.).
As president at Emory & Henry, one of her favorite roles was working with prospective benefactors to establish scholarships.
“Giving is receiving,” said Reichard, who received a New York State Regents scholarship as an undergraduate to attend Harpur College (now Binghamton University). “Benefactors understand they had support when they came through school. We’re trying to take the benefactor’s passion, whatever that might be, and turn that into a tangible impact on a student.”
Perhaps a benefactor participated in study abroad or was a first generation student and wants to focus their money on those areas.
“The donors are making a difference and having an incredible impact on people,” she said. “I can’t imagine anything else you’d want to do more than help one of these students actually become something amazing. What could be more joyful than that?”
Benefactors have been feeling that joy in increasing numbers and their generosity is most appreciated.
“We owe the continued success of this scholarship initiative to our benefactors,” said SJU Vice President of University Advancement Marty Farrell ’88. “Their unwavering loyalty and tremendous generosity is a powerful endorsement of the value of the Saint Joseph’s liberal arts education.”
Former McNulty Scholar Lisa Mariani ’14 characterizes her scholarships as life changing.
“I never would have attended Saint Joseph’s or a liberal arts college if it had not been for a scholarship,” she said. “And I probably wouldn’t have learned what I’ve learned about myself and grown the way I’ve grown without coming to Saint Joseph’s.” Mariani graduated in May with a degree in physics and is pursuing a doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the fiscal year 2013-14, 26 scholarships were established through the initiative. Donors supported a multitude of campus causes, from immersion programs to the men’s lacrosse team, from Haub School students to adult learners. These significant gifts reflect the spirit of generosity and optimism that will carry Saint Joseph’s forward.
- Christopher ’81 and Monica Furman established a scholarship in their name for food marketing majors with financial need who have proven evidence of leadership, good moral character and the qualities that reflect the values of a Catholic, Jesuit education.
- Mike ’85 and Joyce Hagan established the Hagan Family Scholarship, which is earmarked for Haub School students with demonstrated leadership, good moral character and the qualities valued in a Catholic, Jesuit education. They also donated to a new videoboard in Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena.
- Sharon Ramsay O’Brien ’76 and her husband Jim O’Brien ’74 established the Dr. Jack Ramsay ’49 Scholarship to honor and celebrate the legacy of SJU’s legendary basketball coach, who passed away this spring. The scholarship will support students majoring in education who are involved in service.
- The $1 million endowed Francis Xavier Scholarship is the keystone of the newly expanded Honors program and will be awarded to Honors students who participate in service.
– Kevin Kaufman