Students thank donors for 'chances we never thought we'd have'
Without scholarship assistance, the outcome for many Heidelberg students would be dramatically different. On Saturday, a number of ’Berg students who benefit from scholarships got the chance to meet the donors who so generously provided that support at the annual Donors & Scholars Dinner.
“We are so grateful for the wonderful philanthropy that enables our students to pursue those big advantages and life experiences,” said Phil Ness, VP for Advancement & Marketing. Provost Beth Schwartz expressed those same sentiments. Forty percent of our students are first-generation and 40 percent are Pell eligible. “Without your generosity, they wouldn’t be here.”
Senior Ellen Gonzalez Jacquez is one of those.
A chance to say thanks
Although they are separated by more than 60 years, Jim Evans ’58 and Ellen made that special connection. Ellen, a triple major in international studies, Spanish and German, is the recipient of the Class of ’57 Scholarship. Jim attended the dinner as a donor to the scholarship, created by the class of his late wife, Sue (Chambers) Evans, ’57.
Before the dinner, Jim talked with Ellen about his Heidelberg experience and his career in banking. They had both spent time in Germany – Jim as a tourist and Ellen as a participant in the American Junior Year program. She is considering Heidelberg’s PlusOne Advantage® Tuition-Free Scholarship Program and he, a business major, encouraged her to go for it.
“When I was here, we had two business professors, one in accounting and one in economics,” Jim recalled. “I walked through Adams Hall today and I think I saw at least 10 faculty names on the wall.”
Ellen explained that she’s aiming for a career as an interpreter. As a Mexican-American, who has spent time in South Korea and Thailand as well as Germany, she was moved by her ’Berg experience as a volunteer interpreter, assisting women in Texas seeking asylum.
They talked about the best aspects of Heidelberg. Among Jim’s fondest memories, playing basketball ranks high. That, and Dean of Women Grace Leslie always making sure he had enough to eat for dinner following practices. “She always made sure she had seconds she could pass to me,” he said.
Ellen shared the challenge of getting through college while losing her mother and the support she felt from the Heidelberg community. “I love that Heidelberg is a very family-friendly campus. I really felt that when my mom passed. Everyone welcomed me back with open arms,” she said.
But primarily, it’s the lifelong relationships. Both agree on that. “There are so many relationships over the years that you develop – those hang on for an eternity,” Jim said. For the naturally introverted Ellen, being engaged on campus and meeting new people in Greek life, World Student Union, the Cultural and Spiritual Club, Berg Latinx Unidos, as a Spanish as an American language tutor, among other organizations, has helped her come out of her shell.
She had a heartfelt message for Jim and the donors to the Class of ’57 scholarship. “With my family situation,” she said, “I didn’t even think of coming to college, so this has really helped me.
“I’m very thankful to all the donors for giving students like me an opportunity to study and the opportunities I’ve had, thanks to Heidelberg.”
Another meaningful connection
Senior music major Megan Gwirtz represented students with her reflections at the dinner. The recipient of the Evelyn G. Myers Music Scholarship, she’s had the good fortune to become friends with the scholarship’s benefactors, Jack (Evelyn’s son) and Beth Myers, both ’68.
“Ever since I met these two, I have been welcomed with open arms,” Megan said. “I really enjoy performing together with them in Heidelberg’s ‘Messiah’ and next weekend, at the University-Community Chorus concert. I love catching up at all of the concerts and programs throughout the year to hear what’s happening in each other’s lives. We even got the opportunity to travel to Europe together on choir tour in May.”
Overall, Megan said she’s grateful for the “abundance of opportunities to grow as a person and as a music educator” provided by the support of donors. Those examples of generosity and kindness continue to help students succeed.
“My scholarship has given me the chance to form friendships, mentorships and connections with a wide variety of students, teachers and alumni,” Megan said. And students continue to benefit both inside and outside the classroom.
“On behalf of all students, I just want to say thank you to all of you who gave us chances we never thought we would have,” Megan said.