Seton Hill alumni-funded scholarships celebrate university’s 100th anniversary
They were the women of the Class of 1964, out to make their mark in the world as they left what was then Seton Hill College. And make a mark, they did.
Many became teachers — one of a handful of professions open to women at the time — some later transitioned into second careers in the business, research and nonprofit spheres.
At their 50th class reunion, this group of 46 classmates, all past 70, decided to pay it forward and support another young woman out to change the world. In doing so, they set a template for others to build upon as Seton Hill University seeks to fund 100 new or expanded scholarships with gifts of $10,000 or more to celebrate its 100th birthday.
Four years ago, 46 women from the Class of ’64 committed to underwrite a four-year scholarship that would provide $19,640 each year for four years to a gifted coed with a passion for service, strong academic skills and financial need.
“We wanted to do something that would have an important impact on someone’s life,” said Sally Fullman, who retired after a career as a French professor at Rutgers University before moving on to a career in business with Xerox.
Each member of the Class of ’64 pledged some factor of 1964 — be it $196.40, $1,946 or $19.64 — toward the goal. Thus far, each commitment has been met.
Nadia Few, a Canonsburg native and 21-year-old senior at Seton Hill, was the recipient of their generosity. She recently met a group of her benefactors at a tea.
“They were just great,” Few said, marveling at her first face-to-face encounter with Fullman, who had corresponded with her for the past three years, and some of her friends from the Class of ’64.
“This was my first choice of schools. But obviously as the child of a single parent, I wasn’t going to be able to come here without that kind of help,” said Few, who also has worked summers, had work study jobs at Seton Hill and taken student loans to make up the difference.
She looks forward to meeting the women of the Class of ’64 again when they gather for their 55th class reunion next year. And she’s vowed to continue in the spirit of the women who helped her as she works toward the credentials that will allow her to establish a career to help others in psychopharmacology or neuropsychology.
Fullman said she and her classmates are weighing how they’ll pay it forward after Few graduates. Now in their late 70s, they’re not sure they can tackle another four years. But they’re committed to doing something. They’re weighing various options, including endowing an internship.
Scholarships are important everywhere as the cost of college soars and students graduate with ever-growing debt. The most recent survey of student debt among new college graduates in Pennsylvania found 67 percent graduated with debt, and the average debt load was $36,193.
At Seton Hill, scholarships help fill the gap between student loans and what families can pay at a private university where tuition and room and board are about $48,000 a year and about 40 percent of its students are the first in their family to attend college. Nearly all Seton Hill undergraduates receive some form of aid from the school.
Freshman Andy Battaglia, 18, of State College said she almost had to opt out of attending the Greensburg school.
“When I got my financial aid package, I was not able to meet the balance. When I called the school, the admissions counselor was able to find me more money. It’s an incredible opportunity,” she said.
Raymond and Mary Frances Zadzilko like to think they are helping someone take advantage of that opportunity.
The Ebensburg couple met at Seton Hill more than five decades ago. She was in the Class of ’68. He was the first Saint Vincent College male permitted to attend a class in Latin American history at what was then a women’s college. Both history majors, they flourished under the tutelage of Sister Gemma Del Duca, the woman who taught their class and went on to found Seton Hill’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education.
Mary Frances would become a teacher; Raymond, a lawyer.
“We have just so much to be grateful for,” Mary Frances said.
Thanking a room full of Centennial Scholarship donors at a recent luncheon, university President Mary Finger spoke of her frequent discussions with families who help to send their sons and daughters to Seton Hill. She’s learned time and again of the sacrifices they make and how often they need just a little more help.
Finger said the school, founded by the Sisters of Charity, hopes to continue its tradition of educating students regardless of financial need. And while the Centennial Scholarship drive will help, she reminded scholarship recipients to remember the school’s outreach to them.
“Remember when your time comes to remember those who come after you,” she said.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 412-320-7996, [email protected] or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.