By Jill Spotz

A group of donors and students stand together and smile in the Bergethon Room in Marquis Hall.

The Scholarship Recognition Dinner was held on Feb. 23 in Marquis Hall.

Thoughts of gratitude permeated the Bergethon Room in Marquis Hall on Feb. 23 when more than 250 alumni, parents, and friends who established scholarships, and the students who benefit from their generosity, attended the College’s biennial Scholarship Recognition Dinner. 

Thanks in part to a very generous and long-standing community of supporters, approximately half of Lafayette students received assistance through the College’s financial aid program during the 2023-24 academic year. Currently, college-funded scholarships, grants, work opportunities, and loans total more than $71 million. Of this amount, more than $12.3 million is generated by over 700 named scholarships that are part of Lafayette’s endowment or are funded through restricted annual gifts. 

In the last two years, Lafayette made several critical investments to improve access for low-income and middle-class families under the direction of President Nicole Hurd. Students from high-poverty high schools are no longer required to submit the complex College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile to receive financial aid, and the no-loan policy threshold for entering fall 2024 students and beyond increased for the 2024-25 academic year to a total family income of $200,000, with assets typical of this income. This is an increase from the $150,000 income threshold initiated for the incoming classes of fall 2022 and 2023.

“We recently experienced the second largest applicant pool in College history,” said President Hurd during her remarks. “The academic rigor and SAT scores of this applicant pool were also as high as ever. I am really proud of the fact that once again, we made it possible for middle-income students to come to Lafayette. Starting with the fall 2024 incoming class, if you are a family who makes $200,000 or less, you can now attend Lafayette with no loans, and that is the most generous among our higher education peer group. In addition, we have removed the CSS Profile because it is not OK for some families to have to tell us over and over again that they are low income. They are part of this community. This is about widening the pool of students who can attend Lafayette and making sure their four years are absolutely phenomenal.”

Three students and President Hurd are seated on leopard stools on a podium.

During the evening, President Hurd led a panel discussion with three students who benefit from scholarships at Lafayette – Carter Brand ’25, Thania Hernandez ’25, and Cristal Castillo Rodriguez ’26. Each student spoke about their experiences at Lafayette.

During the evening, President Hurd led a panel discussion with three students who benefit from scholarships at Lafayette. Carter Brand ’25, Thania Hernandez ’25, and Cristal Castillo Rodriguez ’26 each spoke about their phenomenal experiences and most importantly, their supported journey at Lafayette. Their stories are, as Forrest Stuart, vice president for enrollment management, explained during his remarks, “signs of hope and opportunity” thanks to the generosity of scholarships.

Denver native and biochemistry major Brand shared why Lafayette has been so transformative and how his research experiences are shaping his career goals. 

“The most incredible experiences I’ve had at Lafayette are as a result of research opportunities,” explained Brand during the discussion. “During my freshman year, I approached one of my professors and explained that I was interested in conducting research. He surprised me by giving me the option to come up with my own research question and project. I took this opportunity and am to this day very grateful for this professor’s open-minded approach to research and my education.…I have been able to grow my research skills here at Lafayette in ways that, I feel, would not have been possible at any other school. I am super thankful.”

Student Government President Hernandez is majoring in English and theater with a minor in geology. As the representative for students and as a Posse Scholar, Hernandez explained that she understands and appreciates the support of administrators and faculty who approach their work with the students’ needs at the forefront. 

“I see all of my classmates who were completely brilliant,” Hernandez said. “I can see just how joyous [they are] and how much passion they have for learning and education. And I think a really great part of that is the professors. The professors have been such a pillar for me in all departments. They’ve helped me with personal problems. They’ve helped me with academic problems. If I need absolutely anything, I have the confidence that I can walk into an office of any of my three departments and talk to an adviser, and they will help me figure it out. I think that the academic aspect of Lafayette is probably one of my favorite parts, if not my favorite part, of being a Leopard.” 

Rodriguez is majoring in engineering studies with a minor in architectural studies. Rodriguez, who also works as a tour guide in Admissions, had a similar experience of feeling the overwhelming sense of support from faculty and staff. She spoke about conversations with Brandon Morris, sophomore class dean, who helped her to overcome obstacles. 

“After a challenging semester, I met with Dean Morris, and he let me know that I have so much more potential,” Rodriguez explained. “He didn’t give up on me in that sense, and he didn’t let me give up on myself either. It is really rewarding to have someone at the administrator level cheering you on. It confirmed for me that Lafayette was the right decision. After touring many colleges and universities, Lafayette was the one school where I could see myself. It felt like home.”

Robert E. Sell ’84 H’18, chair of the Board of Trustees, ended the evening with a personal story about the importance of scholarships and paying it forward. Sell’s father, Richard H. Sell Jr. ’60, was a first-generation student, while his grandfather was only able to complete eighth grade.

“Many of our trustees were first generation. First Gen has mattered to Lafayette forever,” said Sell during his remarks. “For the students in the room who are very grateful for the opportunity that’s presented: You are the trustees of the future. You are the philanthropists of the future. ‘T’ [Thania] has it right that with a little bit of wherewithal, you can make a lot of change happen, right? But it starts with heart, and it’s certainly centered around gratitude.”

The event concluded with a touching rendition of the alma mater by Isabella Crapanzano ’26 and Rod Heckman ’66, whose Lafayette education and experiences span a 40-year difference.

View photos from the event on Flickr.

Categorized in: Alumni, Featured News, Giving News, News and Features, Students

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