Founders Ball honors scholars, serves up surprises for Cartwright

Missy Pollock

Senior accounting major Erin Cecil speaks with a donor at the Founders Scholars Ball Saturday evening. Founders Scholars spoke with donors at the Bertram Inn and Conference Center in Aurora.

Credit: Ben Breier

At the beginning of the Founders Scholars Ball Saturday night, a chair was empty at University President Carol A. Cartwright’s table.

“I kept wondering why there was an empty seat at the table without a name card,” Cartwright said. “I was thinking surely they wouldn’t have left an empty seat here.”

The man who eventually filled the seat was Steele Nowlin, 1999 graduate and the first Founders graduate sponsored by Cartwright and her husband. Steele is now teaching and pursuing a doctorate in English at Penn State University.

“Thank you for believing in me all those many years ago,” Nowlin told Cartwright and the audience, “and thank you for believing in this program.”

“When you’re 19 years old and a college freshman with a scholarship, you have no idea what’s going on in your life,” Nowlin said in an interview. “It’s nice to be able to come back six years later and say thank you.”

The surprises at Saturday’s Founders Scholars Ball were in honor of Cartwright, who started the Founders Scholars Program in 1991 in conjunction with her inauguration as the University’s 10th president.

Since then, the Founders Scholars Program endowment has grown to more than $12 million. Scholarships have been awarded to more than 500 students.

“It’s a statement to donors of their investment,” Cartwright said. “Many … would not be in school without the donors.”

Tiffany Sabin, senior intervention specialist education major and Founders scholar, helped put together another surprise for Cartwright – a scrapbook offering memories of Kent State and words of appreciation from this year’s Founders class.

There were messages in the scrapbook like this one from Kelly Jernigan, senior German translation major: “I just want to say thank you for everything you have done to help get scholarships available to students. If it wasn’t for the scholarships KSU awarded me, I would never have gone to college.”

The Founders Scholars

The following are miniprofiles of some of this year’s Founders seniors based on interviews with them:

CYNTHIA MARSH, senior biology major, receives the William B. and Marion C. Risman Medallion Scholarship.

“Considering how much money they (the Rismans) have given me, it has been such a great opportunity,” Marsh said. “I think it’s important to go to the ball – and it’s a perfect excuse to get dressed up.”

Marsh has seven siblings and was worried about how she would pay for college, but she called the Admissions office at the right time. She asked about financial aid and was told of the Founders Program and that the deadline was the next day.

“(The Founders Scholars Program) gives a lot of opportunities to students who wouldn’t be able to come otherwise,” Marsh said. “There is nothing that has had a bigger impact on my life than getting this scholarship.”

MICHAEL HERPY, senior architecture major, said one of the people who influenced him most was Michael Norman, a retired Kent State horticulturist who died in March.

Herpy took a spring break trip in the Florida Everglades in 2003 with the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, where he met Norman and learned of his love for plants. He also learned that Norman designed the gardens of Risman Plaza and the courtyard outside Merrill Hall.

“It’s been a blessing to learn life lessons and to meet the people who have touched Kent State,” Herpy said.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, senior finance major, was attending the ball for a second time. Last year he met Al and Jeanette Sprague, who sponsored the scholarship Schmidt holds. But Schmidt received a letter last week telling him they would not be attending this year.

“I was very grateful to meet the people who had given me the scholarship,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt’s sister, Katie, a 2004 graduate, also was a Founders scholar.

“It’s given the two of us opportunities that might not have come around,” Schmidt said.

TIFFANY SABIN, senior intervention specialist education major, said she has changed her major from architecture to pre-med to physical therapy to psychology to education. She was able to do it because, she said, she felt less financial pressures because of the Founders Scholarship.

“I knew I would have the financial support I would need,” Sabin said. “It reinforced my self-esteem. Once you’ve been recognized by this program, doors open up for you.”

SHANNON JOHNSON, early childhood education major, knew she would attend Kent State, but never thought she would have the chance to live on campus. Johnson lives in Ravenna, 10 miles from Kent, so living on campus was out of the question.

Johnson’s Founders scholarship covers all expenses, including room and board.

The donors

The following are from interviews with Founders donors:

MARY CIBELLA, who graduated in 1980, has created C. and C. Cibella Educational Scholarship in honor of her parents.

“I think education is important, and my parents also thought it was important,” Cibella said. “By creating this scholarship I can help others get an education to educate others.”

Cibella encourages everyone to attend college, especially prospective students who are interested in educating others. They are the people to teach the next generation, she said.

HELEN W. DIX, an alumna of 1938 and 1964, and her late husband, Robert, an alumnus of 1961, established more than one scholarship at Kent State, including a Founders Medallion scholarship.

“I came to Kent State with $20 and I worked my way through school,” Dix remembers. “I have a strong affection for the college.”

Contact student affairs reporter Missy Pollock at [email protected].