By Callie Ewing, BA '03
Working closely with 1985 class agents Gina (Bonanno) Morrison and Linda (Derdeyn) Jackson, as well as Jon Shelburne, Jim Martin and John Altomare, to reconnect and engage 100 fellow classmates, the group has raised over $300,000 in commitments to date with the help of generous challenge grants from Byrne and Vince Pawlowski, BA '85. Their cumulative support will make it possible both to immediately award and to permanently endow the scholarship. Furthermore, the scholarship will provide an opportunity for the class to mentor and support recipients as well as encourage these recipients to give back when it is their turn.
As a handful of classmates gathered at the home of Jim Martin, BA ’85, for their unofficial 35th reunion in October, the idea to create the scholarship was conceived.
“We did this during one of the darkest times in U.S. history,” said Wehrle. “The pandemic, the economy, mental health issues, the divisiveness of politics.”
Citing 1 Corinthians 12 (“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone”), Wehrle issued two challenges. The first was to his own classmates, that they would both give some amount to the scholarship and participate in the scholarship’s mentoring program; the second was to other UD classes, especially those who are now in a position to give to UD, that they would strive to support and mentor UD students in a similar way.
“As our UD alumni community continues to grow, I love that my classmates have chosen to use their gifts in this way, to support students both financially and through mentoring,” said Trustee Mary Ritter, J.D., BA ’85, who herself established endowments for students in English and music in honor of beloved faculty mentors Professor Emerita Eileen Gregory and former Director of Music Marilyn Walker last year. “Thank you all so much for your thoughtfulness, foresight and generosity. I see enormous potential for this to be a new model that strengthens the bonds across generations of UD alumni and indeed hope this becomes a template for alumni giving.”
Several members of the Class of 1985 and the university community gathered on Jan. 22 to celebrate the establishment of the scholarship.
“It’s wonderful generosity on the part of your class, and it sets a precedent for others,” said President Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83. “It also demonstrates how we, as alumni, can prayerfully consider what our gifts are and how we can use them to support UD. Thank you for coming together as a class and setting an example for the rest of us.”
“Our students who are here need help persisting; this is a tremendous gift to help students in that particular position. I also love that active involvement with the alumni community is a requirement for accepting this gift, because that will help the future recipients to network, to see opportunities that they will grow into,” added Provost and incoming President Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D. “My dream for the University of Dallas is that we will have a rich and deep network that grows deeper and deeper as the years go on. This gift sets a model for every other class and all kinds of philanthropic fundraising, but also the networking that’s so vital to our professional and personal success.”
Associate Provost and Associate Professor of Theology John Norris, Ph.D., BA ’84, emphasized what a great need there is for scholarship support for UD students. Currently more than 98% of undergraduate students receive grant and scholarship aid, with over 73% receiving need-based support.
“It was our scholarships that brought us to Irving,” said Norris, speaking as an alumnus himself. “UD has been our alma mater. She has been the mother to our soul. She has brought us a kind of personal success, and a wisdom and a joy and a happiness, that many people don’t really get to share. We are really fortunate and blessed that we came to UD and that we succeeded at UD, and we really want to help our students make it through. Thank you for remembering the gift that was given to you and for paying it back.
“I can tell you that our students are as quirky, weird, geeky, delightful, hardworking, dedicated and faithful as they ever were, and they still form the same bonds with each other that we formed, bonds that are lifelong,” he added.
Norris reiterated that one of the best aspects of this scholarship is the mentorship component.
“When you get to meet these kids, you’ll have hope for the future,” he said. “It’s my great joy to be around them day in and day out, and when times are dark and you might have fear about the future, there’s nothing like being around UD students to make you have hope.”
As the spokesperson for the Class of 1985 Scholarship, Wehrle explained that scholarship criteria would include academic merit, strong character and demonstrated need. He also especially emphasized the mentorship component.
“When they’re out in the real world, what are they going to do?” he asked. “They need mentoring. This is a body of Christ kind of thing. They get to pick a mentor from a class who are all doing different things. And it’s a pay-it-forward kind of thing; if you receive this scholarship, I expect you to be successful and come back and give back to UD.
“We need to do better,” he added. “We all have different gifts, and these gifts should be celebrated and utilized. … If we don’t do all of this with love, we’ve missed the boat. Approach these students with love. Today is not just the message of a scholarship, but a message of love.”
To learn more about how you can pay forward the value of your UD education to the next generation of alumni through an endowed class scholarship, please contact Veronica Moreno, Associate Director for Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.