Lehigh University’s 27th annual Scholarship Dinner on April 10 was electric. While a brilliant thunderstorm danced over Bethlehem, students and donors lit up as thunderous applause of thanks rolled through the Wood Dining Room at Iacocca Hall. Throughout the night it was clear: our students go on to greatness because of opportunities sparked by Lehigh.
The impact of supporting Lehigh goes beyond one strike of lightning: it creates an entire movement towards the future. President Alice P. Gast said to donors, “You have changed their lives and they in turn will change the lives of others.”
Gast stressed that the marks of a great university are not only our great students, but also great friends. “You are part of a 150-year tradition of sharing the fruits of your success, like Asa Packer did,” she said. “You understand that for a university to attain and maintain excellence requires resources. You know that the success of Lehigh and the success of its students depend upon caring and thoughtful generosity.”
Applauding the strength of Lehigh students’ commitment to learning and leadership, Gast spoke of the change that donor support inspires, saying, “Our students are transformed by Lehigh, and Lehigh is transformed by them.”
These transformations are made possible by the generosity of our alumni because they believe in Lehigh’s vision.
Alumnus John Daniel ’60 ’61G and his wife Carol, widow of Michael Holben ’60, support the Class of 1960 Scholarship and the Harold E. B. and Michael L. Holben ’60 Memorial Scholarship because of their long-standing connection to Lehigh. Daniel recognizes that it was due to the generosity of those before him that he was able to succeed.
“When I was at Lehigh, loans and scholarships made it possible for me to go on for an advanced degree and I appreciated it. It was somebody who made that contribution,” he said.
Bradley Natarian ’15, an electrical engineering major, is the fruition of this cycle of generosity. Natarian, recipient of the Class of 1960 Scholarship, said, “I wouldn’t be able to go to Lehigh if I didn’t have any help.”
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Patrick Farrell, who hosted the evening, shared the room’s enthusiasm with his remarks, “This dinner is a celebration. We’re celebrating students. We’re celebrating donors. We’re celebrating the value of education at Lehigh.”
Each year more than 50 percent of undergraduate students are awarded a financial aid package, including a combination of scholarship, loan, and campus employment. These young men and women benefit from Lehigh’s founding principle that, regardless of financial need, the brightest academic minds deserve access to an outstanding education.
Other alumni give back to what defined their time at Lehigh. Joe Snyder ’65 and his wife Carol have created a scholarship for exemplary members of the Marching 97. “It was one of the highlights as a student,” he said. “It was a really great organization and it still is. I really enjoyed it and I’m happy to give back to keep it going.”
John Muller ’13, a material science and engineering major, has benefitted from the Snyder Family Endowed Scholarship Fund for the Marching 97. He said, “It’s been very helpful during my time at Lehigh. It has allowed me to take music lessons and further my French horn education. At some point I would like to help someone as others have helped me.”
During the evening, a panel of four scholarship students led by John Smeaton, vice provost of student affairs, discussed the highlights of their Lehigh experiences. The students, Stephanie Gordon ’14, Alexis Alu ’12 ’13G, Mason Beckman ’15, and Dana Mendes ’13 shared their personal stories about their education.
Gordon, an electrical engineering major and recipient of the Louis and Olive Wanner Scholarship, values the strength of her Lehigh education. She said, “As an engineer, I have found that many schools push you towards just math and science learning. But everyone at Lehigh is motivated to develop a well-rounded educational experience, where we grow both intellectually and socially.”
Alu, a President’s Scholar and graduate student in the Comparative and International Education program, learned that Lehigh connections stretch around the globe. She shared her surprise of finding a fellow Mountain Hawk in Shanghai, China during her study abroad experience. “The most important thing I have learned at Lehigh is the value of making connections and building networks and just how far those networks can reach,” she said.
Beckman, a supply chain management major and recipient of the John K. Beidler Family Wrestling Scholarship and the Billy Sheridan Memorial Scholarship realized that Lehigh changes lives. “The opportunity to go to Japan in August and train with their Olympic wrestling team for two weeks is one that I could have never imagined,” he marveled.
Scholarship students displayed projects and research discoveries with topics from road planning to impasto painting. The evening also included a performance by A Whole-Step Up, Lehigh’s male a cappella group, who did a humorous rendition of “Peanut butter and Jelly” (see video).
Our alumni return to Lehigh, not only because of their own fond memories, but also because they realize the important role they play in the success of future students. Karen Schaufeld ’83 ’14P, who, with her husband Fred ’81 ’14P, created the Karen Shihadeh Schaufeld ’83 and Fredrick D. Schaufeld ’81 Endowed Scholarship, perhaps said it best: “I was so grateful that someone had faith in me, so, I thought, as soon as I could afford to do it, I would make sure to give that chance to someone else.”