The UNC Pembroke community was reminded at the annual Scholarship Recognition Dinner on November 15 that scholarships have the power to change lives and honor them as well.
The annual event where donors and scholarship recipients meet was attended by more than 300. Scholarships at UNCP are drawn from an endowment that exceeds $7 million, but the human value of a scholarship is far greater.
Cheryl Pettyjohn, who established the Wendy L. Klenotiz Memorial Scholarship to honor her late daughter, talked about why scholarships are needed for both recipients and donors.
“I established this scholarship for several reasons,” she said. “As a parent, your greatest fear is the loss of a child, and your second greatest fear is that they will be forgotten. I established this scholarship to honor my daughter’s unfinished dreams.”
Wendy Klenotiz, who had both athletic and academic scholarships to attend UNCP, was a special education major. The endowed scholarship that honors her has been awarded 16 times to special education majors, and Pettyjohn values every communication she receives from the recipients.
Even before meeting their benefactors at the dinner, scholarship recipients wrote letters to their donors. The letters often provide an intimate view of how the scholarship changed their lives.
With immigrant grandparents and a single working mother, Teresina De La Cruz, who received the Dunlavy Scholarship, wrote about the meaning of a college education. She is the first of a large family to attend college.
“Since the day I was born, my mother has literally made it her life’s goal to provide the absolute best for me, so I could have a chance for a better life,” De La Cruz wrote. “By attending college, I have started a positive tradition in our family. My younger cousins have now begun to talk about finishing high school and going to college ‘like Teresina.’”
De La Cruz’s letter was two pages and single-spaced, but she said to her donors, “there are not enough words to express how truly grateful I am to you.”
As Pettyjohn noted, “these stories are the reason we fund this scholarship. They carry on Wendy’s dream.”
Does establishing a scholarship change a donor’s life? According to Helen Gustafson, a scholarship is both a way to honor her late husband, Dr. Robert K. Gustafson, and a means of personal inspiration.
“My husband taught religion here,” Gustafson said. “This scholarship is a tribute to him and the university he loved.
“I am hoping to have a relationship with the recipient that will inspire us both,” she said.
Dr. Joseph Oxendine is a former chancellor of UNCP and helped establish many scholarships, one in his name and one in the name of his late brother.
“These scholarships give me the feeling that I am still involved and making a difference,” Dr. Oxendine said. “I feel good about it; I may be gone but I am still helping students get a college education.”
Susan Whitt, interim dean of library services, contributes her time to several Friends of the Library scholarships.
“They give me the enthusiasm for education,” Whitt said. “It takes a lot of work to raise the money, but when I hear from the recipients, I get excited to go out and do more.”
Dinner speaker Arlinda Locklear discussed the history of a university that just turned 125 years old and put the scholarship question in perspective. Locklear is a former university trustee and an attorney who has spent a career advocating for American Indian rights.
“The establishment of this university reflects the shared responsibility we have for each other’s well being,” said Locklear. “Each generation is responsible for the transmission of values to the next.
“This evening celebrates those values,” she said. “The donors here tonight have earned the gratitude of us all.
“For students, a return on this investment is expected,” Locklear said. “Donors expect your success as a student, and you must return that investment by investing in this community.”
Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Robin Cummings reminded the gathering that privately funded scholarships remain important for UNCP students, 80 percent of whom receive financial aid.
“The financial challenges facing are students are mounting,” Dr. Cummings said. “What you do is very important to our students.”
For information about the Scholarship Recognition Dinner or other scholarship information, please contact the Office of Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.