FEATURE — Spring 2009

   

  Scholarships Open a World of Opportunities
Marge and Art McWilliams relish getting to know their scholarship recipients. Here, they meet with Michael Young and Erin Albers, both juniors in the Olin Business School. Young was a member of the 2008 men’s national championship basketball team, and Albers helped the volleyball team win its ninth national title in 2007. (Photo: Joe Angeles)
Scholarship donors recognize the fundamental influence of education on young lives; recipients appreciate the opportunities and use them to fulfill their potential.

by Judy H. Watts

A university is a magnificent idea: a place replete with knowledge; alive with teaching, learning, and discovery; and vibrant with synergies in a richly diversified community. At Washington University, that ideal is actual and of the highest order. The University’s academic reputation is towering, and the preponderance of its community are, by many measures, exemplary human beings. Almost to a person, the close-knit student body is astonishingly accomplished, altruistic, and kind. And a vast portion of alumni—leaders, healers, problem-solvers, innovators, builders, defenders, communicators, mentors the world over—display a strong bond to the school that tended their talent and nurtured their character.

In the years since a fledgling Washington University awarded eight scholarships on the eve of the Civil War, assistance to students based on need or merit has come to reflect many of the values implicit in the school’s distinctive education. For scholarship recipients, the awards provide an immediate connection to other worthy young men and women who have scholarships themselves, to donors with exceptional personal qualities and experience, and to opportunities for participation, growth, and contribution to the University community and beyond. For alumni and friends of the University, supporting scholarships allows them to witness the fulfillment of possibility as the impact of their gift increases over time. As the following members of the University family explain, scholarships today are increasingly critical gateways to the rigors and joys of a Washington University education—and powerful engines for good in the world.

“Especially in this day and age, the need for scholarships is so great,” says I.E. Millstone, who graduated in 1927 with a B.S. degree in architectural engineering. He was only 22 when he founded Millstone Construction; 80 years later, at the age of 102, he goes to his office at K&M Investors in Clayton as frequently as he can. A life trustee, member of the Architecture National Council, and well-known philanthropist, Millstone speaks with the authority of a man who has witnessed two-thirds of Washington University’s history and half of St. Louis’. Because he was able to earn his $200 annual University tuition by working summers as a lifeguard at Fairgrounds Park pool for $90 a month, he is acutely sensitive to the cost of education today.

“We are such a high-caliber and competitive university that we have to make attendance as easy as possible for the kind of students the selection committee seeks—young men and women who are bright, accomplished, and eager to be part of the community and to use their education for that purpose.” In addition to providing much-needed buildings and facilities, Millstone and his late wife, Goldie, A.B. ’28, funded approximately 60 scholarships in architecture, arts & sciences, engineering, law, and social work. Among these are the I.E. and Goldie Millstone Scholarships in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Goldie G. Millstone Scholarships in Arts & Sciences.

“We are such a high-caliber and competitive university that we have to make attendance as easy as possible for the … young men and women who are bright, accomplished, and eager to be part of the community…,” says I.E. Millstone, B.S. ’27.

By dissuading his own family members from accepting scholarships they merited—instead paying full tuition for as many as 20 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and nephews and nieces at a time—Millstone has always made way for other students who needed support.

“Scholarships have been a wonderful source of interest for me all my life,” he says, noting that he tries to attend all the annual scholarship dinners for students, and often encounters former students again when they are “50, 60, and 70” years old. “Their accomplishments give me a lot of vicarious pleasure,” he says.

Millstone understands clearly that the best universities also vie for international students, adding, “When these diverse, intelligent young people meet one another in the course of their education, it’s a great ray of hope that the world may at least arrive at some way of living together.”

The importance of supporting students so that they can establish estimable lives and a presence in the world is a deeply held belief of William K.Y. Tao, M.S.M.E. ’50.

When he left China in 1947 to pursue graduate study at Washington University, Tao was offered a teaching assistantship. Raymond R. Tucker, a mechanical engineering professor and then-chairman of the department (and later mayor of St. Louis), also helped Tao get a part-time engineering design job, so that he could afford to bring his wife, Anne (Yu Tsai), and their infant son, David, to St. Louis. His family was able to get on the last flight out of China before the Communists took over in 1950.

Tao later founded the consulting engineering firm, William Tao & Associates, which specialized in designing high-rise and high-tech buildings systems. He calls himself a practical scientist who applies science to engineering systems in buildings.

Tao smiles broadly as he describes “my most important contribution to Washington University,” initiating the “annual scholarship concept” at the School of Engineering in 1974. This concept allows a donor to pledge a partial scholarship anywhere from one to four years, supporting a student’s financial need in lieu of an endowment. Tao himself started with a contribution of $1,000 per year for four years, and he also persuaded nine others to do the same. (Over time, the minimum contribution has increased to keep pace with inflation.)

The concept caught on with 30 sponsors the next year, and now there are nearly 400 annual and endowed scholarships in the engineering school. Moreover, the same concept now is implemented in every school and college at the University. Today, the combined total of endowed and annual scholarships exceeds 2,100.

An emeritus trustee and former affiliate professor in the engineering and architecture schools, Tao and his wife sponsored a total of seven scholarships—five in engineering, and, of these, two are named to honor their parents. They also sponsored two in the School of Social Work, plus a merit award in architecture.

“I feel it is our obligation to do this, because we have been recipients ourselves,” Tao says. “We both wish people would try to do a little bit more during their lifetime rather than after life.”

From their own experiences, Judy and Jerry Kent realize the difficulties some students have in affording the best education. The Kents (center and right, standing) believe it is tremendously important to assist students such as Caitlin Lutsch (left, standing), Joshua Chang (left, sitting), and Jonathan Howard, all first-year students in the Olin Business School. (Photo: Joe Angeles)

“Both Judy and I were brought up in hardworking but financially challenged families who struggled to send their children to college,” says Jerald (Jerry) Kent, B.S.B.A. ’78, M.B.A. ’79. Kent is co-founder, president, and CEO of the telecommunications firm Cequel III, LLC.

“I couldn’t have attended Washington University without the financial assistance extended to me, and I’ve never forgotten that,” Kent continues. “And Judy took out loans and worked three part-time jobs to get through school. So we’re thrilled to be in a position to give back and help students who could not otherwise afford to go to Washington U.—and to help the University remain competitive.”

As a member of the Board of Trustees as well as the Olin Business School National Council, Jerry Kent says the University’s success has three cornerstones: professors, infrastructure, and students. “It’s just tremendously important to invest in incoming students by helping to make their education affordable. I think eventually some universities with huge endowments may begin providing free tuition—so we must continue to develop the scholarship fund if we’re to attract the brightest students in the country and in the world.”

In the 2008–09 academic year, thanks to the Kents’ new $3 million, seven-year commitment to the Judy and Jerry Kent Scholarships, five freshmen in the Olin School became the first to receive the four-year scholarships, one through a merit-based competition, and four based on both merit and financial need.

“It’s so important to give back to the community,” says Judy Kent, who adds that their children, Matthew, 18, and Rachel, 15, are both “huge community volunteers.” The same spirit of mutuality will enlarge all the Kent business scholars.

Almost to a person, donors report that one of the greatest rewards of providing scholarships is the contact they have with the students themselves. Connections are made in a range of ways: annual scholarship dinners, home-cooked suppers, telephone calls, newsy notes, and e-mail messages—for starters. Arthur (Art), B.S.B.A. ’49, and Marge McWilliams, who both have accounting degrees and are ardent sports fans, sponsor three endowed and three annual scholarships, primarily for accounting majors who are student-athletes.

“The students are the backbone of the University,” says Art McWilliams. “Supporting such bright individuals from diverse backgrounds helps the University grow and builds its reputation.”

The McWilliamses take support for students to a new level, watching them play “whatever sport they’re into,” and traveling as often as 10 times a year to out-of-town Division III basketball and volleyball tournaments, sometimes alternating between men’s and women’s playoff games. If the venue is Boston, the McWilliamses like to cheer their students from the stands then hop a shuttle to Manhattan for dinner and a Broadway show.

“We also love the annual scholarship dinners because we can follow the students’ progress and development over four years,” Art McWilliams says. “After they graduate, they call us whenever they return to campus.”

“Scholarship programs are just wonderful,” Marge McWilliams adds. “I wish everyone would take part because it’s so rewarding to see the students grow as they do and watch them develop increased confidence over time.”

Art McWilliams can’t resist: “Of course, a lot of them are coming in with increased confidence to start with!” he says, laughing. “They’re just great!”

Remarkable contributors to their many communities, Philip and Sima Needleman, M.S.W. ’74, live the ideal of making the world better—a closely held value within the University’s entire scholarship family. At the Saint Louis Science Center, for example, the couple provides fellowship funding for Youth Exploring Science (Y.E.S.), a four-year enrichment program that moves children from inner-city schools to college.

A member of the Washington University Board of Trustees, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine, Philip Needleman is past chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and former chief scientific officer and senior executive vice president of Pharmacia Corporation. Sima Needleman serves on the Social Work National Council, and she founded and led for seven years the Alumni Association’s focus group “Healing Racism.” She recently has begun writing and publishing interview-based biographies detailing the richly textured lives of individuals in her synagogue, Shaare Zedek.

The Needlemans believe that the challenging fiscal environment mandates a renewed commitment to scholarship support for students at every academic level. “These are vulnerable economic times in which the vibrant and very smart students we want to attract will need financial support more than ever,” says Philip Needleman.

“We are very committed to education and helping to catalyze careers,” Sima Needleman adds. “We wanted to help by providing two scholarships [for the School of Social Work], which are now endowed [meaning that the principal amount remains untouched but yields dividends to help fund the scholarships indefinitely]. One is named for my parents: the M. Alfred and Sadie Kolman Scholarship. The other is the Sima Kolman Needleman Scholarship.” (Reflecting the caring that characterizes her profession and is part of her nature, Sima Needleman invites the scholarship students to individual lunches so that she can get to know them better.)

As a surprise upon her husband’s retirement from Washington University, she created an endowment for the Dr. Philip Needleman Pharmacology Prize, awarded annually to a graduating student for outstanding achievements in pharmacology. The Needlemans also recently have endowed the Philip and Sima K. Needleman Professorship to help support the first leader of a new Clinical Sciences Division within Washington University’s BioMed 21 initiative, which is designed to accelerate scientific discovery and to more rapidly apply those breakthroughs to patient care.

As energetic and intellectually wide ranging as the Washington University students he applauds, Gary Sumers, A.B. ’75, graduated Phi Beta Kappa with degrees in history and political science, earned a law degree, and attended the London School of Economics. He is senior managing director and COO of the Real Estate division of the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm in New York City. A longtime contributor to scholarships in his college, Sumers found himself “in a position to do more, and so in 2008, I endowed a million-dollar fund for scholarships in Arts & Sciences,” he says.

“The goal is to provide a four-year full ride for as many students as possible, depending on the economic climate, who maintain B averages. The first student, a minority scholar, began as a freshman last fall.”

Although Sumers did not attend Washington University on scholarship, he prefers that the scholarships be awarded to entering freshmen who have financial need. “I grew up in a very solidly middle-class environment in which my parents made sacrifices that affected their lifestyle so that I could receive a first-class education. I realize how fortunate I was and how lucky I’ve been in my life,” he says.

“I think the University has a very special and immensely admirable admissions process. Students are motivated, kind to one another, and altruistic, as well as outstanding scholars. I just wanted to help them.”

The Joan Sumers Scholarship in Arts & Sciences honors his late mother, who Sumers says “was a big influence on my life, believing in education and in who I was and who I could be.”

He concludes: “I want these scholarship students to have fun and enjoy the incredible things the University has to offer. If in the future they are as lucky in their lives as I have been, I hope they will do something for other students.”

Howard and Joyce Wood both attended the University on scholarships and say it is one of their biggest joys to be able to give back to students now.

Both Howard Wood, B.S.B.A. ’61, and Joyce Wood, B.S.B.A. ’76, M.B.A. ’77, say frankly that they could not have attended Washington University without scholarships. Howard Wood, co-founder of Charter Communications; Cequel III, LLC; and Gilead, LLC, is a member of the Board of Trustees, the Olin Business School National Council, and the School of Medicine Finance Committee; Joyce Wood is on the Medicine and Public Health National Councils. She serves on several for-profit and not-for-profit boards. They both are still actively involved in the many businesses in which they have investments, including real estate development and a commercial beef herd.

Among their scholarship recipients and fellows are (right to left) Brian Shaw, Katherine Tkach, and Michael Swift, all M.B.A. students. (Photos: Joe Angeles)

The Woods also are passionate about helping outstanding students afford a Washington University education.

“I just couldn’t take my scholarships and not give something back,” says Joyce Wood, who commuted from Festus, Missouri, to complete the Olin School’s 3-2 program after her children were born.

Today, the Woods support up to 15 full-tuition scholarships, the Wood Leadership Fellows Program, and the Wayne Wood Scholarship in Howard’s father’s name. They heartily enjoy the satisfaction of helping others and the joy of knowing the students.

“We try to meet them all!” says Howard Wood, who recalls one young woman who was completing her surgical residency while enrolled in the M.B.A. program. “You tell me how these kids do it!”

At one annual dinner, Joyce listened as Howard’s 95-year-old mother—who has enjoyed attending the scholarship dinners as much as they do—spoke to a Canadian business student who casually mentioned relatives in Marquand, Missouri. Joyce says, “It turned out his mother and I were college roommates!”

The couple’s commitment to students also includes the funding of a simulation center at the School of Medicine; the center allows medical students to develop sophisticated clinical skills using computer-driven, lifelike mannequins.

“We get so much enjoyment from these scholarships—including watching graduates go on to do wonderful things,” says Joyce Wood.

Returning to numbers, Howard Wood adds: “It’s often harder to obtain scholarship dollars than bricks-and-mortar dollars. But because national competition for students grows more fierce every year, a great many more scholarships are absolutely essential.”


Recent Recipients Share Successes
Focusing on empowerment, equality, and everyday needs • When Clare Masson, M.S.W. ’07, would tell people she was studying social work, she got pats on the back and smiles. But when she added that she planned to work against human trafficking, she was met with horror. “They’d say: ‘Isn’t that dangerous? Isn’t that sad? How can you do it?’

But Masson continues, “The question for me was how could I not?”

After graduation, Masson completed a Fulbright grant in Chile and worked on a project there for the Gephardt Institute for Public Service. She utilized a model, initially created by classmates Kelsey Buchanan and Carrie Nardie, to understand human trafficking by using system dynamics to examine how the City of Valparaiso intervenes in the trafficking industry and what areas are being overlooked.

A former Danforth Scholar at the Brown School of Social Work, Masson says the assistance was invaluable. One benefit was that it kept her from getting further in debt, so that later she could search for jobs in which she truly believed.

“My goal is to develop viable programs that have a direct impact on people,” she says. “I know I can’t save the world, but I’m optimistic about the change I can help create.”

It takes a community • By many measures, Adeyinka (Yinka) Faleti, J.D. ’07, would seem tougher than steel. A new litigator at Bryan Cave, LLP, he was tempered at West Point, where he majored in human factors engineering. He served two tours in Kuwait and was tank platoon leader at Fort Hood, training for war with 15 enlisted soldiers on four M1A2 Abrams tanks. He was a captain and company commander when he left the military.

Yet after emerging unscathed from his six-year Army career, Faleti broke his kneecap playing pick-up basketball at the School of Law. A Poscover Endowed Scholarship had made the difference in his decision to enroll—but what happened next touched his heart.

“There was such an outpouring of love and support, and this was only my second week,” Faleti says. “They were the most giving, friendly classmates in the world. Somebody took my books to class; someone else pulled out my chair; my roommates drove me to the store and helped me get upstairs. Somebody baked cookies. And I thought, ‘You know what, I made the right decision.’”

And he made the most of his time while at the University. Faleti went on to become president of the Black Law Students Association and to compete on the Trial Advocacy Team, earning Best Advocate honors in 2005 and serving as captain on the 2006 finalist team.

Pediatrician Brian Saville (seated) attended the University on an Elizabeth Gray Danforth Women’s Society Scholarship. Now an annual scholarship donor himself, he understands how important scholarships are to students such as Jack Duncan (left) and Nicholas Bloom, both Arts & Sciences Class of ’10. (Photo: Joe Angeles)

Surprise and Gratitude • Scholarship donors often say they are glad the University chooses the scholarship recipients because the selection committees have such prescience about potential and success. But had pediatrician Brian Saville, A.B. ’95, M.D. ’01, been on his own committee for the 1995–96 Elizabeth Gray Danforth Women’s Society Scholarship, he probably would have chosen someone else. Married with three children, Saville was running his own 10-year-old residential communications systems business and pulling a 4.0 average at St. Louis Community College at Meramec on the side.

“I applied to the University not expecting to get in,” he recalls, “and when I found out that I got in and also got the scholarship, I was shocked.” (Later on he had another surprise—his application to the School of Medicine was accepted!)

Now an annual scholarship donor, Saville has served on the Women’s Society’s scholarship selection committee, which one year chose a brilliant young scholar from Vietnam. When her equally talented sister applied the following year, Saville was impressed that committee members were unconcerned about two family awards in successive years.

“The sisters each deserved scholarships, and they got them. When I saw that, it took my breath away,” Saville says. “I think that says as much about the Women’s Society as one could ever hope to say.”

One scholarship, perpetual effects • Acts of generosity, of course, can powerfully affect lives. Also remarkable is that recipients’ attributes that lead to their being awarded scholarships often become amplified later in their lives. Take Gregg Walker, A.B. ’94, as one example. Far beyond his vice presidency of strategy, mergers, and acquisitions at Viacom, Walker displays the intellectual and leadership abilities and commitment to community service that helped him win a four-year John B. Ervin scholarship.

A deacon in the Abyssinian Baptist Church, in Harlem, Walker is a member of the board of Harlem RBI, an organization that uses baseball to help focus city children on literacy and leadership. Among other major efforts, he chairs the board of the Harlem YMCA, which serves tens of thousands of Harlem youth and is involved with health issues of 3,000 adult African-Americans.

Walker’s extensive service to Washington University includes membership on the Arts & Sciences National Council and the New York Regional Cabinet. An annual scholarship donor for many years, he recently created an endowed scholarship. Called the Harlem Scholarship, the goal is to fund a student from northern Manhattan or elsewhere in the borough. He expects both scholarships to continue “in perpetuity.”

Judy H. Watts is a freelance writer in St. Louis and a former editor of this magazine.