On the founding soil of South Side’s Bethlehem Steel, a different kind of alchemy occurred during Lehigh University’s 26th annual Scholarship Dinner held on March 28. Relationships were forged, thank yous bestowed, and dreams shared between donor and scholar as the prevailing theme of the evening unfolded: Lehigh students are prepared to change the world.
President Alice Gast told the capacity crowd at the new arts and cultural SteelStacks venue, “Our society needs confident, straightforward individuals who can get the job done. This is the opportunity that a Lehigh education provides.”
She reinforced the university’s commitment to preparing leaders for the 21st century by summing up Lehigh’s focus in three words: Integration, Leadership, and Globalization.
“Integrating new perspectives, building relationships across the world, leading at every chance-these attributes reflect the opportunities that we provide as a university,” Gast said.
And these opportunities cannot be made possible without the generosity of alumni, family and friends of Lehigh. More than 100 benefactors who travelled from and far away as Massachusetts and South Carolina to “meet their student,” and also those not able to attend, were applauded for their vision and support of talented and deserving undergraduates. Endowed scholarships are the epitome of paying it forward to the next generation of Lehigh achievers.
“It really warms my heart to know that I am helping him at least in a little way,” said Joann Trotsky ’65G referring to Jack Whylings ’13, a behavioral neuroscience major, who has received the Alexander, Elizabeth and Joann Trotsky Endowed Scholarship for three years. Trotsky, like a number of other donors, created a scholarship in memory of her parents.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Patrick Farrell, who emceed the evening, thanked guests for making the commitment to Lehigh’s students through scholarship.
“Your generosity continues to make a Lehigh University education accessible and affordable for students from all backgrounds,” he said. “Your unwavering support to Lehigh is critical, and for that, we are extremely grateful.”
Each year almost 50 percent of undergraduate students are awarded a financial aid package that includes a combination of scholarship, loan, and campus employment. These young men and women benefit from Lehigh’s resolute belief that an outstanding education needs to be accessible to the brightest academic minds regardless of financial need.
"We wanted to be able to have somebody have the same great education that we had, and make it available to somebody who maybe couldn’t afford it,” said Robert Haines ’79, who created the Robert and Nadine Haines Endowed Scholarship Fund awarded for the first time to Allyson Baer ’12, a history and Spanish double major.
Invited to present a faculty perspective at the Scholarship Dinner, Joseph Yukich, professor of mathematics, said experiencing the way Lehigh students’ minds fathom, grasp and use the unlimited potential of education is not only awe-inspiring, but has personally changed him during his 27 years of teaching. He equated it to “intellectual alchemy.”
“Lehigh students are successfully transmuting and transforming the world and people around them,” he said, citing examples by spotlighting at least five students in the audience by name.
Student speaker Caroline Bendyk ’12, an integrated business and engineering and mechanical engineering dual major, said she might not have been able to attend Lehigh without the four-year Accenture Scholarship that she received. Characterizing her college career, she referenced faculty greatness, the rewarding challenges made available to her through Lehigh, and the selflessness of the people in the room.
“The opportunities and programs offered by Lehigh are unique, and they wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated work of alumni and donors,” she said. “Thank you all for your contributions and generosity. You are truly making a difference for the students of what I think is one of the best universities around.”
Doug Breen ’68 couldn’t recall how many students he and his wife Susan have helped through the creation of the Howard X. Breen Endowed Scholarship Fund (named for his father more than 20 years ago). But what he did remember were his days at Lehigh and the financial aid that he received.
Kyle Meredith ’13, electrical engineering major and current recipient of the Breen scholarship, said that he is definitely going to pay back this generosity when he is able. “It means carrying on the tradition of being the beneficiary of two very generous people. Mr. Breen received a student scholarship back when he was a student, and he and his wife are continuing the tradition.”
In addition to meeting their benefactors, several scholarship students held “poster sessions,” informative displays that featured their research discoveries and other academic findings. The evening’s agenda also included a performance by Lehigh’s Dolce women’s ensemble who sang Glorious Lehigh and was then joined by the audience in singing the Alma Mater.
The revitalized location, held off-campus for the first time, enhanced the celebratory ambiance of the event that invited both donor and recipient to enjoy an evening of camaraderie. This collaboration with SteelStacks represents an ongoing engagement benefitting the Lehigh community and our neighbors.
After an evening of goodwill, a quote from Yukich’s remarks echoed the appreciation and admiration shared throughout the night: “To those Lehigh students in the audience here tonight, I say ‘thank you’ for bringing out the best in me. And to those donors in the audience, I say ‘thank you’ for letting Lehigh students bring out the best in you.”