Two alumni have made a $25,000 gift to begin an endowed fund for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to provide scholarships for students experiencing “unexpected financial challenges,” according to a press release.
The scholarship will be granted to a junior or senior majoring in a program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a minimum grade point average of 3.0.
James Schiffer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences said he first heard about the interest to start the fund a year ago. Steven Brody (’73) and Karen Brody (’71, ‘80) made the gift in January 2013, and the first scholarship will be available in the summer of 2014.
“Usually these things begin as just kind of a casual conversation and then you just try to follow up and secure it, but it is part of a larger effort in Liberal Arts and Sciences to do some fundraising for really good causes for students,” Schiffer said.
The endowment will earn 4 percent interest, which will be used for the scholarship. Schiffer said a $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to one student initially and as the endowment grows, so will the award amount.
Steven Brody serves on the Liberal Arts and Sciences board and his wife Karen Brody is a member of the College Foundation board. Karen Brody said the education she and her husband received at SUNY New Paltz was the “springboard for everything else.” She also said they both struggled to pay tuition, so they can relate to the challenges students may experience.
“Although I had help with my education from my parents, I still left college with a college loan and Steven had to pay for his college totally by himself, so sometimes it was a struggle to get the funding,” Karen Brody said. “We felt that we would like to perhaps make it a bit easier for a deserving student who’s having trouble in the last two years of their education at New Paltz.”
Schiffer described the scholarship as a “finish-line scholarship.” Unexpected financial challenges can range from parental job loss to losing a house unexpectedly. Schiffer said eligible recipients will be identified by the office of financial aid with the approval of the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“Any number of things can happen and we’re very conscious of how difficult it is to afford a college education and we pride ourselves at SUNY generally and at New Paltz in particular, giving really high quality education at an affordable cost,” Schiffer said. “We’re also aware that things can happen in the course of four years.”
Limiting the scholarship to juniors and seniors was an idea discussed by a number of people, including President Donald Christian and Interim Executive of Development David Ferguson. They agreed that freshmen and sophomores usually receive financial aid and that this scholarship will be used to benefit students who need help graduating.
“I think a lot of times what happens is people get offered financial aid when they’re freshmen and when they’re sophomores and a lot of times that financial aid disappears by the time they go further along,” Steven Brody said. “One of the things we felt is people who are getting closer to the end of their education who maybe have fallen on difficult times would need a little bit of help to get them over a hurdle and help them get closer to graduation.”
The scholarship will most likely not have any application deadline, Schiffer said. Students who are experiencing financial struggles usually visit the financial aid office, and a student aid counselor will refer them to a foundation board that will select the student for the award.
Schiffer said that the development office, office of the dean of liberal arts and sciences and financial aid office have a year to work out the details, and information will be posted on the college’s website when final decisions about guidelines are made.
Both Karen and Steven Brody hope their gift will inspire other alumni to contribute to SUNY New Paltz.
“I think that other universities around the nation, older universities, although New Paltz is up there in age as well, there is more of a culture of philanthropy that has been cultivated with the alumni and that seems to be a bit lacking for New Paltz,” Karen Brody said. “We would like to inspire other graduates to give back to the university because it has no doubt launched many careers and lives.”
Steven Brody also said he and his wife would like to add to the endowed fund to ensure that it generates more money. He said any gift amount is useful as it makes a SUNY New Paltz degree more valuable.
“I do also think that it shouldn’t be about cultivating people who give big gifts,” Steven Brody said. “I think it should be about cultivating people who give any gift, so you know, whether you give $5 or $5,000 it doesn’t really matter. You know the stronger your school is the better your education will be recognized as you go through life, as you apply for jobs, as you do anything in your life.”