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Chancellor and alumni are among many highlights of 25th annual Scholars Breakfast
Monday, October 25, 2010

SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner (left) and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher (right) join SUNY Fredonia’s “Keeper of the Dream Scholars” and administrators as they are recognized at the 25th annual Scholars Breakfast in Steele Hall Arena.

Twenty-five years ago, SUNY Fredonia and the Fredonia College Foundation held its first Scholars Breakfast, with the notion of introducing scholarship recipients to the very donors who had made their educational dreams a reality. The organizers hoped it would strengthen the bond between donors and the university if they met and bonded with the students who their gifts were helping. Perhaps, they surmised, they’d continue giving, or even increase the size or frequency of those gifts. They also thought it might instill a sense of commitment in the students, encouraging them to remember how important scholarships were to them, and become donors themselves after they graduated.

Mission accomplished. That first event in 1985 had just 87 students in attendance, who together received a mere $17,000. Saturday morning, over a thousand students, parents, benefactors, faculty and staff were in attendance to be recognized among the more than 800 students who in 2010 received more than $1 million in scholarship support.

“It was 14 years ago that I attended my very first Scholars Breakfast,” SUNY Fredonia President Hefner shared with the audience during today’s event. “We held that event in the Cranston Dining Center – with plenty of elbow room. Today’s event marks the third year that we have had to hold it in Steele Hall Arena, and by the looks of things, we may have to start looking for a bigger facility in a couple of years!  And isn’t that a wonderful problem to have?”

Dr. Michael Marletta, '73, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, encouraged people to establish scholarships in memory of their loved ones.
President Hefner thanked those who had made a gift to Fredonia through the annual phonathon, parents appeal or through a planned gift. He also encouraged the students in attendance to remember this event long after they’ve graduated, so that future students might sit where they sit today.

“While SUNY Fredonia continues to face challenging fiscal times, with less than 16% of our consolidated budget now provided by the State of New York, it is heartening that gifts have helped us to both maintain a margin of academic excellence and to reward outstanding students,” Dr. Hefner added.

SUNY Fredonia welcomed a special guest to this year’s event, as SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher spoke to attendees about the new strategic plan SUNY has launched at the system level in Albany. It was borne from her initial 64-campus tour shortly after her appointment in mid-2009, as well as a subsequent series of strategic planning sessions involving government officials, SUNY employees, students and community members at all levels which were held at various locations across the state.

“We recognized that no single person could articulate a vision for SUNY and its full potential by him or herself, so we instead decided to bring everyone together,” Chancellor Zimpher explained. “We figured — with our nearly half a million students and 2.4 million alumni — if we can’t lead the state of New York forward, who can?”

Dr. Zimpher learned of the event during her first visit to campus in 2009 and was so impressed with the idea that, on the spot, she committed to returning to Fredonia in 2010 to attend this unique Fredonia tradition. As such, she made sure to localize her message to the Fredonians in the crowd.

Jacob Kahn, a junior musical theatre major and a Keeper of the Dream Scholar, thanked the donors for allowing students like himself to be scholars.
“We call our strategic plan, ‘The Power of SUNY,’ but what we really mean is that Fredonia is the Power of SUNY. You, the students, are our future. Congratulations!”

The audience was also given words of encouragement from Dr. Michael Marletta, a member of Fredonia’s Class of 1973. Dr. Marletta, a Rochester native who is now a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, spoke of how he chose Fredonia and all that he learned here.

“My time at Fredonia was an incredibly special personal and professional experience,” Dr. Marletta recalled. “At Fredonia, I really learned how to think. Students, you are going to be challenged [in your careers after you graduate], but if your teachers have come even close to preparing you as well as they prepared me, you’re going to be fine.”

Dr. Marletta also shared his story of why he elected to establish a scholarship in the memory of his mother, who passed away at the young age of 50 — just three days before Commencement when he was a senior at Fredonia.

“I can tell you that the single-most satisfying thing I have done is to honor her in establishing a scholarship in her memory. I encourage you to consider doing something similar in your lives. I promise that you’ll like it; better yet, I think that you’ll love it.”

In addition, Jacob Kahn, a junior musical theatre major and a Keeper of the Dream Scholar, expressed his thanks to those in attendance.

“I have carried as many as 24 credits a semester,” Mr. Kahn said, causing an amazed response from the audience. “I have utilized almost every academic building on campus and all of the resources, books, faculty and staff within. Scholarship is a unique gift. Thank you for allowing us to be scholars.”

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