By Geoff Gehman ’80
Megan Schmidt ’17 (Pottstown, Pa.) and Gary Flaum P’16 belong to the same extended family—the Lafayette family. She’s able to attend Lafayette thanks in part to a scholarship started by Flaum’s late father, Mitchel Flaum ’40, a longtime Lafayette trustee who gave generously to the College that gave generously to him. Flaum’s generosity allows Schmidt to pursue engineering studies, work on the Marquis Players’ tech crew, and cook for mothers and children at an Easton shelter. She calls it a big gift for a small-town girl.
Schmidt is nothing less than a living legacy to Gary Flaum, who administers his dad’s scholarship. “My father worshipped Lafayette. Megan allows him to live on in the memory of his deeds. To me, she’s a hero.”
Flaum and Schmidt bonded before the 11th biennial scholarship recognition dinner, held March 28 in Marquis Hall. That night, many benefactors met student beneficiaries for the first time. The extended family members shared stories of repaying emotional debts, investing in careers, and improving an institution that improved them. They celebrated more than 550 named scholarships—part of Lafayette’s permanent endowment or funded through restricted annual gifts—that generated about $7.5 million in aid awarded this year, part of an aid program totaling more than $57 million.
Nearly 60 named scholarships have been established since 2008-09, partly as the result of a campaign to convince donors, especially younger graduates, that you don’t have to be rich to enrich. Among the new benefactors are Lloyd “L.J.” Bennett ’97 and his wife, Shea, who last year started a scholarship favoring graduates of their own high schools in the Lehigh Valley, Easton, and Wilson.
“Lafayette was so good to me,” says L.J. “What better way to give back than helping a local high school student following the same path?”
Last Friday the Bennetts were photographed with their first beneficiary, Hagar Kenawy ’17, an alumna of Easton Area High School. They were pleased to hear that she’s pleased by Lafayette’s global student body. She noted that Conway House, where she lives, is 50 percent international students, a miniature United Nations.
Jeffrey Schor ’79 and Patricia Winkler Schor ’82 are new donors, too. The couple’s scholarship benefits residents of New Jersey, their native state. It’s a family affair that allows them to honor the school where they met, the school attended by their children (2009 and 2011 graduates), and the school supported by her father, Lewis Winkler ’44. Last week the Schors enjoyed learning that their generosity will help their first beneficiary, biology major Carli Jones ’17, study immunology during a three-year summer program in interdisciplinary research.
Philip Bollman Jr. ’60 was able to study engineering at Lafayette because of a baseball scholarship that paid for everything but food. Last year he and his wife, Bernice, repaid that debt by giving $1 million to endow a scholarship fund for engineering students who play sports. The first beneficiaries, mechanical engineering majors Amelia Ayers ’16 (Harveys Lake, Pa.) and Kyle Polinski Frost ’16 (Snow Shoe, Pa.), are grateful they don’t have to get in-semester jobs in addition to their academic and cross-country responsibilities.
Jerry Turnauer ’59 worked 20 hours a week to help pay his way on College Hill. Despite his job at the Dixie Cup Company, the mechanical engineering student couldn’t afford to stay at Lafayette at the beginning of his junior year. He also felt he couldn’t afford to drop out. He didn’t want to face an “uncertain” future without a college degree. He especially didn’t want to face the grandmother who helped raise him, who kept telling him, lovingly, that he would be their family’s first college graduate while they washed dishes.
Turnauer’s problem was solved by Frank R. Hunt, Lafayette’s dean of students and dean of quiet favors. Hunt’s personal check for $200 enabled Turnauer to complete his junior year. The next year Turnauer graduated on time and began working full time at Dixie Cup, where he received a patent for a paper-plate dispenser. Today, he is the successful owner of three Ford truck dealerships.
Turnauer’s voice trembled while recalling Hunt’s life-changing loan. A half century later, he still can’t believe that Hunt personally helped him, a normal student who was “just another face in the crowd.” He teared up while insisting he felt “guilty” for not adequately thanking Hunt, who left Lafayette in 1958 and died in 1968.
Turnauer more than adequately thanked Hunt in 2009, the 50th anniversary of his Lafayette graduation. That year he donated $250,000 to start the Dean Frank R. Hunt Emergency Scholarship, the only College scholarship with “emergency” in the title. Turnauer teared up again while listening to the current recipient of aid from the fund, Ana White ’16 (Swarthmore, Pa.), struggle to describe trying to cope with her father’s death last year.
Turnauer’s generosity allows White to continue to study biology, captain the lacrosse team, and make residents of the Easton Retirement Home feel a little less lonely.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to stay at Lafayette,” she said. “It makes me a little more driven to help people the way I’ve been helped.”
Turnauer teared up yet again while discussing Hunt’s gracious generosity during the scholarship recognition dinner, where the audience for his speech included three of Hunt’s grandchildren. He was followed to the podium by Stacey-Ann Yanique Pearson ’15 (Spanish Town, Jamaica), who told an equally emotional story about her own Lafayette angels. Arlina DeNardo, then director of financial aid, and Rochelle Lam, then manager of student accounts in business affairs, guided her during a roller-coaster year and a half, during which she helped her mother, her academic co-captain, recover from a stroke. Their common sense and compassion sustained Pearson while she slept barely four hours a night, ate one meal a day, and worked 30 hours a week for pay—10 more than Turnauer’s weekly total, she noted with a laugh.
Like Turnauer, Pearson remains awed by the faith of strangers who became extended family members. That faith has helped the civil engineering major become a campus leader and model citizen involved in everything from renewable energy to Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
“There was no reason for one institution to invest in one kid,” says Pearson. “But you always found that reason.”
It’s a gift, she added, extended to every Lafayette student.
“It may seem like nothing,” she said, “but to us it’s everything.”