Among the many concerns raised since Cabrini’s closure was announced, one major question that remains is how endowment scholarships will be handled. As the deal with Cabrini and Villanova has yet to be finalized, there is no definite answer.
What is an endowment scholarship?
Endowment scholarships are scholarships Cabrini offers to its students. According to the university’s website, “An endowed scholarship at Cabrini establishes a permanent asset from which students will receive support into perpetuity.”
Many of these scholarships, which are based on major, financial needs, or graduation year, are named in honor of former alumni, staff, and supporters of the university donors must raise the minimum of $25,000 dollars. Dr. Laura Chisholm, executive director of Development and Alumni Relations, oversees their distribution.
Hollie Havens, a marketing and events manager at Greenphire, which provides financial management solutions for clinical trials, is a 1998 Cabrini alumna and has donated to many Cabrini scholarships. Havens said these scholarships are intended only for Cabrini students, and alumni donors like her worry about how the money might now be used.
She said, “The purpose of the scholarship is that students would receive support in perpetuity and unfortunately because the college is no longer going to be operating, we don’t know what is going to happen to these endowed scholarships. We don’t know what the legal ramifications are. When these people donated to these scholarships, nobody had in mind that Cabrini would never exist.”
Havens said communication with Cabrini Development and Alumni Relations is good, but there’s no concrete answer due to the unsigned official agreement between the school and Villanova. “They can’t tell us what they don’t know,” she said.
Havens noted that many supporters of the endowment scholarships want them to continue in some way after the closure. She also said alumni are encouraged to ask the Development and Alumni Relations office any questions they may have.
“They have been very gracious with alumni during this emotional time. It’s not only alumni who have donated to these scholarships, it’s families, faculty, and staff. Just people in general who love and support Cabrini, and I just really hope in some way they can continue.”
She hopes Cabrini and Villanova are working on a solution that will honor the donors’ intent and the scholarships’ purpose.
Chisholm replied to the Loquitur via email, saying, “Thank you for reaching out and for these important questions. I will not be able to offer answers until the definitive agreement with Villanova is signed, which is expected later this fall.”
Dr. Dawn M. Francis, associate professor and communication department chair, also raised concerns about the scholarship’s future.
Francis said Chisholm told her, “All assets are going to be transferred to Villanova in mid-October. The agreement between the two universities are supposed to be solidified, and, [Chisholm] said, at that point, she could get in touch with their advancement team formally and ask about these endowment agreements.”
The Jerry Zurek Communicator for the Common Good scholarship was established to honor Cabrini Professor Dr. Jerry Zurek, who has taught at Cabrini since 1971. This scholarship was made to honor and is awarded annually to a student in the communication department who is in good academic standing, promoting the common good through communication, and has financial need.
Francis played a key role in creating this scholarship. Institutional Advancement oversees the scholarship funds. The communication department chooses the student who meets the scholarship standards and should receive the award.
The last three winners were Sydnee Reddy, Tariq Mines, and Isaiah Dickson. The department sends that name to Institutional Advancement so they can award the funds to the students through the Financial Aid office.
Francis said Chisholm shared the endowment scholarships with Villanova so they understand the award criteria.
Francis said, “Each year, it means a lot to us to be able to award that to a student who embodies those characteristics, and we are always thinking about Dr. Zurek when we’re awarding that.”
She added, “If the funders, the alumni, and friends of Jerry who contributed to that feel that Villanova isn’t doing it well, then we can look to take action at that point. Hopefully Villanova will be good stewards of the scholarship.”
Francis and the communication department want to ensure that whoever gets that scholarship is someone studying communication and communicating for social justice.
Hopes for the future
Zurek also hopes for a positive outcome, but doesn’t know how it would be executed.
“That’s kind of the puzzle. Will it be a Villanova student who meets those criteria or are we going to switch it and maybe support a high school kid, who exhibits these traits to help them go to college?” Zurek asked.
Zurek believes Cabrini High School in New Orleans is a good option, but nobody he has spoken to suggested it. He also hopes the alumni association will last even without Cabrini and that its board of officers could find candidates for these scholarships and students could use it for any institution they want to attend.
Zurek said, “When Dawn Francis got the idea to do this, it was just an incredible honor. The faculty and so many alumni contributed. It was just, you know, really touching and very moving, and I just want to thank them. The students who have gotten the scholarship have all been wonderful students, and I’m so proud that we were able to help them in a little way.”