“Private schools are far too expensive,” lamented Frank’s father. “There are plenty of fine community colleges and state schools for you to consider, so you need to drop Saint John’s from your list.”
Frank, a stereotypical responsible and rule-abiding first-born child, had dutifully followed his parents' direction for 17 years, until that summer day in the mid-70s. He recognized that his parents — neither of whom had attended college — were intimidated and overwhelmed by the complex admission process. He also respected the fact that his family’s financial resources were extremely limited. And yet Frank knew in his heart, on his very first visit to campus, that Saint John’s was the right place for him. So, with a hope and a prayer and a dash of Catholic guilt, Frank applied to Saint John’s, and only to Saint John’s.
The congratulatory acceptance letter brought a mixture of elation and panic for Frank and his family. Despite saving nearly every dollar he had earned through a series of part-time and summer jobs, Frank knew his meager bankroll would cover only a fraction of the total bill. His parents were able to provide only a few hundred dollars per year to pay for text books. And then Saint John’s did what Saint John’s has done so well for so many young men over so many years. They offered Frank a comprehensive financial aid package — a combination of scholarships, loans, grants and work study. With that critical and generous assistance, Frank became a Johnnie. Four years later, much to the delight of his teary-eyed parents, he processed into the Abbey & University church and collected his hard-earned diploma.
“My folks were so thrilled and so proud,” recalls Frank, “that they dug deep into their limited reserves and as a graduation gift offered me twenty-five shares of pharmaceutical stock or the cash equivalent — $600. With a decent-paying job already lined up, I decided to take the stock.”
Frank went on to do the things most Johnnies do once they depart Collegeville. He earned an advanced degree, married (a Bennie, no less), started a family and experienced career success. And while he rarely made it back to Collegeville, he remained grateful for the financial assistance he had been given and recognized the ultimate source of that support — generous alumni.
During the course of Saint John’s current capital campaign, Forward Ever Forward, Frank decided to prove the depth of his gratitude by establishing a First Gen endowed scholarship fund to assist future generations of students who, just like him, require some extra help to realize their dreams. As luck and the market would have it, the value of the stock Frank had been gifted to mark his commencement decades earlier had increased enough to finance a significant portion of the scholarship. “I can think of no better way to honor my parents for allowing me to follow my heart. Their gift has truly come full circle.”
Frank enjoys receiving letters from the students who are benefitting from his endowed scholarship. One recent recipient wrote: “Although we have never met, I wish you the best and thank you for the kind and amazing thing you have done to support my education. Please continue to make a difference in many students’ lives the way you have made a difference in mine.”
Frank intends to do just that.
[Editor’s note: In respect for the donor’s wishes to remain anonymous, “Frank” has lent his name to this article.]