Chowan University Annual Scholarship Luncheon Honors Donors
Emotions were high as Chowan University scholarship recipients communed with donors at the annual Scholarship Luncheon on November 1, 2018, in the J. M. Jenkins Center on the Chowan campus.
The gymnasium was transformed into a dining room capable of seating over 250 people for the event. Round tables, each surrounded by eight chairs, were clothed and topped with a single orange orchid. As the tables filled with donors, student scholarship recipients, faculty, and staff, the chatter increased – some meeting for the first time, others reconnecting from previous years. Faces lit up, people embraced, and stories were shared as open hearts eagerly listened. All the while, the jazz band serenaded in the background.
President Kirk E. Peterson welcomed the crowd and affirmed the impact of each donor on the Chowan community. “This is an occasion for gratitude and appreciation. Chowan University is grateful that scholarships are available to bring good students to our University. Every donor, every dollar, makes a difference. You help make it possible for Chowan to transform lives.” He continued to encourage donors and students to share their stories with one another.
Reverend Mari E. Wiles, Minister to the University, prayed thanks to God as she offered the blessing over the food that was shared. After lunch, student Kaymber Felton, a junior music major from Greenville, NC, accompanied by new faculty pianist Dr. Deborah Kiszely-Papp, stunned the audience with her rendition of “Witness” arranged by Mark Hays (b.1953).
Courtney O’Keefe of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Sean Timmons of Poquoson, VA, both scholarship recipients and Presidential Ambassadors, shared their stories. While their paths were not similar, donors had a similar impact on their ability to attend a university. Both students saw their donors as strategic partners who helped change their lives.
O’Keefe said, “Scholarships and financial aid were key in my ability to continue on my academic path. Monetary support was the reason I was able to attend Chowan and continue to pursue both my academics and faith. If donors didn’t believe in me and the hundreds of other students who receive aid, we wouldn’t be here.”
Timmons echoed O’Keefe in his remarks, “Many of the scholarships I received were not because of something I had done, but rather because of something someone believed I could do. It was not because of my faith in myself, but because of your faith in me. Your support has made the past four years of my life possible.”
“I am honored to speak to you about the scholarship that Jim Mason, my brother, and I established in honor of my mother, Lou Mason, at Chowan,” Norma Mason Meier of Tallahassee, FL, opened. Meier explained her family’s long relationship with Chowan. Over 100 years ago, her father’s mother was a member of the class of 1916, though she left after 2 years to marry. Twenty years later, Meier’s mother joined the class of 1936.
Meier’s voice filled with emotion as she reflected, “I’m not sure I will ever understand the sacrifices that my grandparents made for my mother to come here.” Lou Mason spoke often of her experience at Chowan and counted Murfreesboro as her second home. She became a high school teacher following graduation. When Lou passed in 2010, Meier and her brother considered a number of ways to honor her life and decided to establish a teacher’s scholarship at Lou’s beloved Chowan.
“We know for many young people a college education is not an expectation but a goal or a dream. We know there are potentially great students who can’t afford the full cost of a college education. Like other donors here, we hope these scholarships will enable recipients to fulfill their educational dreams.” Meier’s continued, “I challenge you, students, to succeed and pay it forward and create your own place.”
Chancellor M. Christopher White delivered words of gratitude and encouragement, as well. “For colleges like Chowan University, gifts have been major in survival and in prosperity. But the most precious gifts are those that have a direct impact on students and their financial ability to attend school.”
As the ceremony ended, students presented each donor with a memento of appreciation – an olive wood cross adorned with mother-of-pearl from the Holy Land made by Palestinian Christians. Robbie Parker of Williamston, NC, trustee and scholarship donor, offered the benediction and the crowd dismissed to the photo backdrop where donors took pictures with their students. The photos are another tangible reminder of the impact they have made and continue to make with each gift.
Nick Khoury, Director of the Annual Fund, said, “This was my first year organizing the Scholarship Luncheon in my new role with the Development Office. As a student, I was fortunate to be the recipient of scholarship support. This experience, however, made me even more grateful for the donors who provide financial support to our students because I saw first-hand the even larger impact they have on the campus community – the gift they make extends well beyond the individual.”
There are over 350 named scholarships at Chowan, nearly 300 of which have reached endowment level. Students are matched with scholarships based on their intellectual pursuits, extracurricular achievements, hometowns, and plans for the future, among other factors. Scholarships are just one part of financial aid at Chowan. Donors establish scholarships to give back for aid they received as students, in memory of family members or friends, in honor of their class year, because they are thankful for the education they received, and a number of other personal reasons. This type of aid allows Chowan to admit students based on their ability to contribute in the classroom, on campus, in the community and to society not based on what their family can afford.