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Lighting the Fire

May 5, 2004

Carol J. Schlueter
Michael DeMocker

"Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire," said Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Helping the dreams of education burn brightly are Tulane University donors such as Warren Lichtenstein, who are making endowed scholarships their priority. Thanks to Lichtenstein, the $500,000 Steel Partners Foundation Challenge is being created to enhance scholarship opportunities.

scholarshipsLichtenstein, who heads a successful investment fund as managing member of Steel Partners, LLC, attended Tulane College in the mid 1980s. He is challenging donors to contribute to endowed scholarships at Tulane. The importance of "lighting the fire" for scholarships is a crusade of Tulane's academic leaders such as Nicholas Altiero, dean of the School of Engineering.

"Endowed scholarships are a top priority for us because that's how we attract the best students, especially in engineering," Altiero said. "Engineering students are often not as affluent, and a lot are first-generation college students. Scholarships often are the only way they can afford to attend Tulane."

The university has more than 300 endowed scholarship accounts with an estimated book value of $65 million. Tulane, however, lags behind its peer schools in the size of its overall endowment and its ability to provide scholarships out of endowed funds. Altiero points out that donors interested in scholarships have a number of options. "There are so many different donor levels," he added. "A scholarship can be endowed for as little as $20,000, and then they can add to it over a lifetime."

Donors also can include scholarships in their estate plans. Endowed scholarship funds are created with gifts and exist in perpetuity. These gifts are invested as part of the university's pooled endowment. A percentage of the income generated from the investments is made available for scholarship use for students. Providing a full, named honor scholarship or fellowship requires $600,000 in an endowed fund, so that interest of approximately $30,000 is dispensed yearly. Half tuition is provided by a named founder's scholarship or fellowship endowed at $300,000.

A named president's scholarship or fellowship, requiring a $100,000 donation, can mean a partial scholarship or fellowship, a grant for study abroad or funding for a special program in the student's major. More information is available from Julie Nice, assistant vice president of university program development, 504-314-7380. How crucial are endowed scholarship funds to students?

"Without it I wouldn't have been able to finish," said Justin Adendorff, an A. B. Freeman School of Business graduate who finished summa cum laude in May and was one of the school's top scholars. Adendorff received the Garvin Shands Saunders Merit Scholarship his senior year. The scholarship was established in a bequest from the late Maridel Saunders (N'28, M'44).

For Greta Gartman, a summa cum laude graduate in art history from Newcomb College, scholarships made possible "a wonderful four years here at Tulane." During her senior year, Gartman received the Melanie Pulitzer Feldman Memorial Scholarship in Art, funded by friends and family in honor of the late Feldman, who attended Newcomb. "The endowed scholarship made me so much more confident--that someone else believed in me and said, "I'm investing in you as a person, and your education," Gartman added.

She is off for a two-year stint with Teach for America but eventually wants to be a museum educator. Tulane engineering professor Robert N. Bruce Jr. knows first-hand what scholarships mean to students. He has one named for him, thanks to donations by several of his former students as well as his sister, Jane Bruce Jenevein, and her husband, Patrick Jenevein, of Dallas.

Bruce, who graduated from Tulane in 1951 and has been a member of the civil engineering faculty since 1962, holds the Catherine and Henry Boh Chair in Civil Engineering. Jenevein (N'57) was especially pleased to honor her brother's name through the scholarship. "It was also a way for me to honor his and my parents. They worked so hard to educate us," she said. "I just think education is the most important thing for our country."


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