Dr. Michael Marletta, ’73, encouraged people to establish scholarships in memory of their loved ones.
SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner (left) and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher (right) join SUNY Fredonia’s Keeper of the Dream Scholars and administrators as they are recognized at the 25th annual Scholars Breakfast in Steele Hall Arena.
Twenty-five years ago, SUNY Fredonia and the Fredonia College Foundation held its first Scholars Breakfast, with the notion of introducing scholarship recipients to the very donors who had made their educational dreams a reality.
The organizers hoped it would strengthen the bond between donors and the university if they met and bonded with the students who their gifts were helping. Perhaps, they surmised, they’d continue giving, or even increase the size or frequency of those gifts. They also thought it might instill a sense of commitment in the students, encouraging them to remember how important scholarships were to them, and become donors after they graduated.
That first event in 1985 had just 87 students in attendance, who together received a mere $17,000. On Oct. 23, during Family Weekend, over a thousand students, parents, benefactors, faculty and staff were in attendance to be recognized among the more than 800 students who in 2010 received more than $1 million in scholarship support.
“It was 14 years ago that I attended my very first Scholars Breakfast,” President Hefner shared with the audience. “We held that event in the Cranston Dining Center – with plenty of elbow room. Today’s event marks the third year that we have had to hold it in Steele Hall Arena, and by the looks of things, we may have to start looking for a bigger facility in a couple of years! And isn’t that a wonderful problem to have?”
President Hefner thanked those who had made a gift to Fredonia through the annual phonathon, parents appeal or a planned gift. He also encouraged the students to remember this event long after they’ve graduated, so that future students might sit where they did.
“While SUNY Fredonia continues to face challenging fiscal times, with less than 16% of our consolidated budget now provided by the state, it is heartening that gifts have helped us to maintain a margin of academic excellence and reward outstanding students,” he added.
SUNY Fredonia welcomed a special guest to this year’s event, as SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher spoke to attendees about the new strategic plan SUNY has launched at the system level in Albany. It was borne from her initial 64-campus tour shortly after her
appointment in mid-2009, as well as a subsequent series of strategic planning sessions involving government officials, SUNY employees, students and community members held across the state.
“We recognized that no single person could articulate a vision for SUNY and its full potential by him or herself, so we instead decided to bring everyone together,” Chancellor Zimpher explained. “We figured – with our nearly half a million students and 2.4 million alumni – if we can’t lead the State of New York forward, who can?”
Dr. Zimpher learned of the Scholars Breakfast during her first visit to campus in 2009 and was so impressed with the idea that, on the spot, she committed to returning in 2010 to attend this unique Fredonia tradition.
The audience also heard from Dr. Michael Marletta, a member of Fredonia’s Class of 1973. Dr. Marletta, a Rochester native who is now a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, spoke of how he chose Fredonia and all that he learned here. “My time at Fredonia was an incredibly special personal and professional experience,” Dr. Marletta recalled. “At Fredonia, I really learned how to think. Students, you are going to be challenged [in your careers after you graduate], but if your teachers have come even close to preparing you as well as they prepared me, you’re going to be fine.”
He also shared why he elected to establish a scholarship in memory of his mother, who passed away at the young age of 50 – just three days before his Fredonia Commencement.
“I can tell you that the single-most satisfying thing I have done is to honor her in establishing a scholarship in her memory. I encourage you to consider doing something similar in your lives.
I promise that you’ll like it; better yet, I think that you’ll love it.”
In addition, Jacob Kahn, a junior Musical Theatre major and a Keeper of the Dream Scholar, expressed his thanks. “I have carried as many as 24 credits a semester,” Mr. Kahn said to an amazed audience. “I have utilized almost every academic building on campus and all of the resources, books, faculty and staff within. Scholarship is a unique gift. Thank you for allowing us to be scholars.”