by Alumni Council President Bernadette McFadden Stout ’07
During my tenure as Alumni Council president, I have sought ways to help ensure “Dickinson is where you are” and provide (hopefully!) inspiring examples of the ways in which our fellow alumni give back to the college with their time, energy, knowledge, career opportunities and connections. The idea behind these columns is to echo President Jones’ call for each of us to find individually impactful ways to engage with Dickinson. What resonates most with me is Dickinson’s Change a Life—Change the World scholarship campaign. I can confidently say that scholarships changed my life. While I am a long way from endowing a scholarship of my own, I try to direct my own giving in ways that will open doors to new generations of students.
During my college search, I realized that I wanted a small liberal-arts college because I desired strong academics coupled with student/faculty interaction. I visited Dickinson and was drawn to the intimate feel of the campus. But I remember being frustrated that these small private institutions were unlikely to be financially feasible for my family. When I was a freshman in 2002, the cost of tuition, room and board at Dickinson neared $35,000. With my older sister also in college, my newly widowed mother could contribute only a fraction of that amount. While I am forever grateful to her for the investment she made in my education, I would never have arrived in Carlisle without generous financial aid. In my first year, I received $29,000 in grants and endowed scholarships provided by generations of alumni. Over the course of my four years at Dickinson, around 80% of my costs were supported by grants and scholarships. This allowed me to graduate with manageable student loans and pursue my further educational and career goals.
A few years after graduating from Dickinson, I was living in Washington, D.C., and attended services at the National Cathedral. One Sunday, the Rev. Canon Stephen Huber preached about the power of teachers, saying: “My outlook on life continues to be influenced by the gifts of teachers. Right now you might be thinking back to some teacher who had a profound influence on your life, someone for whom it’s not too much to say, ‘They made all the difference.’ Teachers have the power to liberate, to open new worlds, to enlighten, to instill values, to literally help us find our way in this often confusing world.”
Canon Huber’s words brought to mind faculty members at Dickinson who had helped shape me: Harry Pohlman, Nancy Mellerski, Doug Edlin, David Crouch, David Sarcone, Neil Weissman, Jim Hoefler, Wendy Moffat, Bill Bellinger, Noel Potter and so many others. Even today I reflect on the power that these teachers had to change my life. The Dickinson faculty fostered my social consciousness, allowed me to better understand how communities operate and confront challenges, and define and refine my career goals. I have no idea where I would be without them.
I feel a special obligation to help the college welcome new students who, like me, would have no other chance to enroll. For me, that means giving money to scholarships. For you, it may mean mentoring a high-school student and telling them about Dickinson. Whatever it is, we have a chance to help others find their way to Dickinson; let’s use our power well.
Published February 24, 2023