November 2012 | Article By Christina Carr
On a pleasant November evening, donors, alumni and board members made their way from around town and across the country to a rooftop overlooking the Mississippi River for what has become a tradition of Tulane University’s School of Science and Engineering.
"Every year at this time, we ask a major donor, a faculty member who held or is holding an endowed position and a student who goes to Tulane on a scholarship to say a few words. I think by listening to them you can understand much more about the benefits of your generosity than I can say," Dean Nick Altiero told the crowd at the Distinguished Leadership Circle Reception on Nov. 1.
The annual event brings board members, donors, professors and students together in a relaxed environment to learn about the school and the impact of their support. This year's reception, courtesy of Walnut Street resident, board member and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department advisors Franz Vogt, highlighted three stories.
Bill and Marta Marko established the Francis William and Douglas J. Marko Engineering Scholarship after hearing a cell and molecular biology scholarship recipient speak at the same event two years ago.
"I admired how articulate and poised this young woman was and I thought to myself how I never would have been able to stand up in front of all of those grown-ups and address the audience like she did," said Marta Marko. "She had a lot of drive and she was thinking a lot about her future. Down the road, I think she will really give back to her school."
A two-time engineering graduate who attended night classes at Tulane, Bill Marko (BSE '81, MEGN '83) wanted to name the endowed fund after his father and brother, who were both engineers. His father even taught engineering at Tulane as an adjunct instructor, said Marta Marko.
Dr. Laura Schrader (BSE '91, Ph.D. '97) has held the Stepping Stone Foundation Early Career Professorship—established by Drs. David and Joanne Wolf—since 2009 and was recently named associate professor of cell and molecular biology.
"Laura received her bachelor's degree from Tulane in biomedical engineering and was in fact a dean's honor scholar, so she is a perfect fit for this," said Altiero.
After she began working at Tulane in 2005, Schrader said she struggled to find funding resources. The Stepping Stone professorship has allowed her to purchase equipment and travel.
On one important trip she established a collaboration that ultimately led to a National Science Foundation grant.
"Without the Stepping Stone Professorship, I would not have attended that meeting and wouldn’t have gotten that grant. And that's how I'm here talking to you today instead of looking for a job," she joked.
A senior majoring in psychology, April Hartmann had dreamed of attending Tulane since childhood. The Zide Chalker Cole Benedict and Beatrice and Harold Forgotston scholarships turned her dream into reality.
"It is because of these scholarships that I was able to attend Tulane and stay at Tulane," she said.
As co-president of the Psychology Club and an undergraduate research assistant in a social psychology lab, Hartmann said her Tulane experiences helped earn her a coveted internship this summer with the Mary Amelia Women's Center at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
"I'm able to do this internship partly because I have financial aid and I don't have to spend all of my time working to support myself through college," said Hartmann.
While endowed faculty positions encourage top scholars to bring their research to Tulane, endowed scholarships attract the most promising science and engineering students. Endowed funds build enthusiasm for the school, strengthen departments and further distinguish the contributions of Tulane scientists and engineers, said Altiero.
That kind of momentum caught the attention of supporters like the Markos.
"This school is really on a huge, fantastic winning arc and we are really proud to be able to make a small contribution," said Bill Marko.
Christina Carr is assistant director of writing in the Office of Development.
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