Cornell launched the endowed scholarship challenge at the start of 2017, matching gifts of $200,000 or more on a 1-to-4 basis. To date, the challenge has raised 72 new and enhanced scholarship endowments, totaling $18 million. By 2018, it is expected to meet its goal of $20 million ($25 million, including the $5 million challenge match), thanks to Cornellians who’ve risen to the challenge. Here are a few recent donors and the reasons they gave.
A chain of giving
Chris and Julie Lee, both Class of ’94, haven’t set foot on campus since their engagement on the Libe Slope in 1997. But, one night, two decades and three daughters later, the Lees were searching online for ways to give back to their alma mater when they stumbled upon a story about Craig Voorhees ’49, whose unrestricted bequest provided the matching funds for the new scholarship challenge. Moved by Voorhees’s story, the Atlanta-based couple decided to establish a scholarship as their very first gift to Cornell.
The challenge “just seemed perfect and the best way to make the most of our giving,” said Chris, an otolaryngologist.
Julie, an aspiring novelist, also saw their gift as a way to continue her own Cornell story: “I was able to attend Cornell because of the grants and scholarships offered to me. It was time to give back.”
Chris and Julie—who graduated from the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences, respectively—designated their scholarship for Asian American undergraduate students in any college or school.
“We believe there is a discrepancy between perception and reality when it comes to the needs of Asian American students,” Julie said.
“Being Asian American doesn’t automatically guarantee success and achievement without struggle. This model-minority myth diverts attention away from those in need, which is why we wanted to create this scholarship for eligible, deserving students.”
Breaking down barriers
A self-described “impact junkie,” Mike Nash ’85 established an endowed scholarship with his wife, Carolyn Duffy, to nurture tomorrow’s innovators. The promise of the future belongs equally to men and women, the couple firmly believe, and they have designated their scholarship for female students enrolled in Computing and Information Science.
Based in Bellevue, Washington, with two sons and a daughter, they are longtime supporters of Cornell and veterans of the tech industry. Duffy, with undergraduate and MBA degrees from Harvard, is the head of business at Textio. Nash, who also has an MBA, from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is vice president of customer experience and portfolio strategy and chief technologist for personal systems at HP.
“I’ve been in the tech sector for over 30 years since I graduated from Cornell, and overall, the number of women that I’ve seen in technology just seems lower than it ought to be,” Nash said.
“When I look back to my classmates in the computer science program at Cornell, the ones who were most competitive with me academically were women,” he added. “There’s a discontinuity between the capability of those women and the number that are in the workplace, so Carolyn and I want to do what we can to knock down those barriers.”
The challenge match was an added bonus. “It came down to the impact we can have where a dollar from us became more than a dollar because of the challenge, helping to make sure we can enable one or more young women in following their dreams of being in technology,” Nash said.
Bob Eberly Jr.’s endowed scholarship follows a long family tradition of philanthropy, started by his grandfather, Orville, who established the Eberly Foundation in 1963. Focused on higher education, the foundation has created scholarship programs and endowments in 28 colleges and universities in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.
“Through all these years, we have helped literally thousands and thousands of deserving students, and so I thought it was time that we begin to focus on my alma mater, Cornell,” said Eberly, who became the foundation’s president in 2011.
A member of the Class of ’66, Eberly is a retired lawyer in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He also is a history buff who has written a book about the Civil War.
On the heels of his current-use gift for student financial aid at Cornell, he and his wife, Kathy, created their endowment gift to benefit undergraduates, with a preference for students from western Pennsylvania—particularly Fayette County, where Eberly grew up. Devoted to the coal mining communities of his youth, he and his wife hope to nurture the next generation of Cornellians from the region.
“By and large, these are young people of limited experience, limited travel. They are overwhelmingly public high school students. And so, in many cases, arriving in Ithaca and becoming a member of the Cornell community becomes their first experience in a much broader, and more diverse, world,” he said.
“In this age of globalization, I think it’s imperative that people from all different kinds of backgrounds have an opportunity to interact with each other and to become comfortable with each other,” he added.
Bob and Kathy Eberly believe that these future Cornell scholars will rise in their own time and in their own way to make a difference on campus and beyond.
“You just never know what they’ll do, but the magical part of this is that every now and then one of them will change the world!” Eberly said.
Editor’s note: The endowed scholarship challenge was successfully completed in April 2018, garnering nearly $22 million from Cornell’s champions. Read more.
Interested in supporting scholarships and other priorities? Contact Ben Renberg, senior associate vice president in the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-255-1905.