From left to right: Daniel Benyo, Sigrid Rhea, Sam Laposato and Tabatha Benner

CAMPAIGN NEWS:

Additional Funding for The Dr. Samuel M. Laposata Wescoe Student Scholarship Takes Total to $50,000

Dollars Raised in Honor of Sam Laposata and
in Celebration of The 100th Anniversary
of Adult EducationWill Aid Adult Students


May 18, 2010

As the Wescoe School celebrates 100 years of adult education at Muhlenberg, a major goal this year has been to raise funds for The Dr. Samuel M. Laposata Wescoe Student Scholarship. The original goal was to raise $25,000; however, thanks to the support of Wescoe faculty, staff and alumni and a matching challenge from Paul J. Marin ’99, honorary chair of the Scholarship Fundraising Committee, funding for the scholarship was nearly double – $48,450 – as of April 7, 2010.  (Editor's Note: As of June 14, 2010, the total amount raised to fund the Laposata Scholarship is $51,019.)

“When planning this 100th Anniversary celebration we wanted it to be more than just a series of events,” says Priscilla Howard, director of teacher certification for the Wescoe School and chair of the 100th Anniversary Committee. “We felt we had to ask ourselves, ‘What are the needs of our adult learners who juggle family, work and school?’ Many of our students are single mothers; some are people who have been laid off. What better way to honor our anniversary and former dean Sam Laposata than to establish a scholarship?”

Although there have been a few scholarships available to adult students at Muhlenberg through the years, there continues to be a greater need than present funding sources can support. Many Wescoe students are first generation college students who often do not have family financial support or displaced workers who have time to take classes, but have limited income. Even those students who are gainfully employed find the financial burden of attending college to often be a choice between attending to family needs and taking classes.

Originally established in 2005 to honor Samuel M. Laposata, visiting professor of economics and former dean of the Wescoe School at Muhlenberg College, the minimum funding threshold of $25,000 had not yet been reached as of fall 2009, so the scholarship could not be awarded. It was Sam’s desire to continue efforts to fund this scholarship and to “help adult students who may have the ability and determination to earn their degree, but not the money.”

Sam earned his academic degrees as an adult student and later witnessed the struggles of adults working in the corporate world while simultaneously furthering their educations. During his time as dean of The Wescoe School, Sam gained further experience with adult students and says, “I think they are among the best learners – they are in my heart.”

It is an act of courage to return to school according to Sam. “To a certain extent, you put your ego on the line when you come back to college, especially for those who didn’t make it the first time around,” he says. “But most adult students succeed in ways they didn’t before – even with the additional responsibilities they have.”

“It’s a fact that the only part of us that gets better over time is our heads,” he continues, laughing. “Our bodies age, but our minds improve as life seasons us.”

Former Trustee Paul Marin ’99 was Sam’s first advisee, and says he agreed to serve as honorary chair of the Scholarship Committee because he is extremely grateful to Sam and Muhlenberg for the positive change he has experienced since obtaining his degree. “I know that gratitude is best expressed in action!” he says.

“I met Sam the week after a job offer in Boston was retracted by a Wall Street firm because I did not have a college degree,” he continues. “I sat with him and explained my problem and he simply set a course for ‘us’ to take toward the solution. Sam was extremely kind, patient, understanding and compassionate with me about my work and personal challenges of both time and travel.”

In fall 2009, Paul issued a challenge to members of the Scholarship Committee: he would match, dollar for dollar, any gift that was made to the scholarship by November 16. Through the challenge, an additional $14,000 was raised and the original goal of $25,000 was exceeded. Since then, Wescoe faculty, staff and alumni have contributed to the effort.

Dr. Lona Farr ’62, P’94, Trustee and chair of the Scholarship Committee, says that Paul’s commitment and the support of the committee have made all the difference in this effort. “I know the value of a Wescoe education and I have a deep appreciation of what it means for people to work full-time and go to school,” she says. “This is a worthwhile endeavor and will change lives. It’s a wonderful reflection of the lives that were touched by Sam Laposata.”

Priscilla agrees. “Sam is the type of person that you just feel you’ve known forever. He really listens to you – and gives you the best, smartest answers! He’s someone who you’d want as your father, or your best friend or neighbor. And the students just love him.”

Sam says he is moved by the effort to fund a scholarship in his name. “It’s indescribable, really. I can’t find the appropriate superlative, but I’m proud and humbled, of course. I do want to say that I love being at Muhlenberg; it is a real joy. And I also want everyone who contributed to know that we will put your money to good use. We know the faces of the students and the type of people they are. This scholarship will change lives forever.”

Paul says ultimately, he hopes the efforts of the Scholarship Committee will spark others to give back to the scholarship – and that recipients will also “pay it forward.” “My highest hope for those that receive this scholarship is that one day, when they are in a position to give to this scholarship, they will give generously.”

To make a gift to support The Dr. Samuel M. Laposata Wescoe Student Scholarship, contact Kim Anderson, Director of The Muhlenberg Fund and Development Services, at 800-859-2243 or anderson@muhlenberg.edu.

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