Powered by Cornellians who have provided matching funds to inspire the generosity of others, the university recently launched fundraising challenges to amplify the impact of gifts in support of the endowment.
One of these challenges is the universitywide endowed scholarship challenge, matching gifts of $200,000 or more on a 1-to-4 basis. To date, the challenge has raised 65 new and enhanced scholarship endowments, totaling $17 million – more than two-thirds of its goal. Here are stories of supporters who have risen to the challenge.
A chain of giving
The last time Chris and Julie Lee, both Class of ’94, visited campus was in 1997, marking a pivotal moment in their lives. “Chris proposed to me at Cornell because our years there meant so much to both of us,” says Julie, who vividly recalls their engagement on Libe Slope.
Two decades and three daughters later, the Lees are reconnecting with their alma mater through an endowed scholarship.
It’s the first gift to Cornell by the Atlanta couple, linking their gift with that of Craig Voorhees ’49, whose unrestricted bequest provided the matching funds for the scholarship challenge, and whose story inspired their own support. (Visit giving.cornell.edu to read more about Voorhees.)
The challenge “just seemed perfect and the best way to make the most of our giving,” says Chris, an otolaryngologist. Julie, an aspiring novelist, also sees the gift as a continuation of her own narrative: “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 says. “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 has created 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 says.
“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 adds. “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 says.
Broadening perspectives, expanding possibilities
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,” says 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 says.
“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 adds.
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 says.
Interested in adding your own giving story to the endowed scholarship challenge? Contact Allison D. Riley ’84 at firstname.lastname@example.org, 607-254-7158.
This story originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Ezra magazine.