Perez’s scholarship was created by Senior Vice President for Advancement Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78 P’18, whose steadfast leadership has guided Keep the Promise from its quiet phase in July 2012, to its public launch in 2016 and through the eclipse of the $100 million mark in January 2020.
Marsteller has been impressed with Perez’s growth while at Ursinus, and the two have even become close. “I've seen her on campus, and I've watched what she's achieved,” Marsteller says. “It's one thing to say you want to create a scholarship for women that aspire, but then to watch how she has inspired others—even herself and her family—has been just ideal.”
That Perez was able to attend Ursinus through a scholarship is precisely one of the factors that drove the campaign in the first place. It gets its name from a famous poem by Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” the final stanza goes, “But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep.”
“This was a very apt phrase for us,” says Marsteller, who draws inspiration from poetry and often recites her favorites. “Our 150th anniversary was coming up, and we wanted to keep the promise of our original mission and values—to continue access to scholarship support, and to provide students with a high-level, rigorous liberal arts education.”
The seeds of the campaign were planted when the late Ursinus President Bobby Fong picked up the mantle of his predecessor, John Strassburger, when Fong began his own strategic planning process. The goal was to organize the campaign into three priorities: advance academic innovation, invest in student success, and ignite the power of Ursinus’s people.
After eight years, Keep the Promise has been a phenomenal success: More than $105 million has been raised by over 14,000 donors, some 6,900 alumni, 5,300 parents and nearly 7,700 first-time donors.
The impact is broad and sweeping, visible in nearly every corner of Ursinus’s Collegeville campus.
“I think that the takeaway is that Ursinus is continuing to invest in a vibrant environment, both in terms of buildings and programming and curricula, to address the needs of today's students, as well as tomorrow’s students,” says Margaret “Peg” Williams ’80, Keep the Promise campaign co-chair.
In a time when a lot of other colleges are tightening their belts, we’ve made the decision to invest in our curriculum, our students and our facilities.”
Donor giving has supported the college in innumerable ways and perhaps what is most evident to visitors to campus is the expansion of the college’s footprint. The Ursinus experience of 2020 begins at its new front doorstep, the Schellhase Commons, a welcome center, coffeehouse and hub for admissions that will be used by all members of the college and local communities. Across campus, the $29 million Innovation and Discovery Center—which was nearly half-funded through private philanthropy—now bridges Pfahler and Thomas halls, offering an interdisciplinary hub of science, policy and entrepreneurship. There have also been key renovations to spaces within the Wismer Center, Myrin Library and athletics, including the resurfacing of Eleanor Frost Snell Alumnae Field, made possible through the generosity of Adele Boyd ’53.
Eleanor Frost Snell Alumnae Field was resurfaced thanks to a gift from Adele Boyd ’53. Photo by David Morgan.
But the overarching focus of Keep the Promise was always on supporting and cultivating the growth of students, and increasing funding for financial aid, first and foremost, is a vital component to achieving this objective. In fact, 30 percent of the campaign’s goal was earmarked for this purpose.
“My scholarship means a lot to me because there would be no other way for me to afford to attend college,” says Jacob Ross ’22, a history major who was the inaugural recipient of the S. Ross Doughty ’68 Endowed Scholarship. “It's really encouraging for what I'm hoping to do next.”
Ross will only be a junior next year, so he’s keeping his career options open; currently, he plans on going for his teaching certificate in history. He is the beneficiary of the generosity of more than 75 donors who collectively donated over $100,000 to establish an endowed scholarship to honor the late Doughty, longtime faculty member and chair of the history department. It was a grassroots effort led by current history chair Susanna Throop and an inspiring reminder of the power of hands united.
Helping to bring students to campus is one thing, but the campaign also promotes providing the most life- changing educational experiences possible. This is achieved through the new Quest curriculum; the interdisciplinary learning that takes place in any of Ursinus’s three academic centers; athletics and extracurricular programming; and the hands-on and immersive learning opportunities that are offered through study abroad, internships and externships, PhillyX, the Summer Fellows program and other student/faculty research initiatives. Each have been amplified through the generosity of donors during Keep the Promise.