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Being the Best

Top-notch faculty and students excel with the support of scholarships and professorships

Among the measures used to assess an American university in the 21st century are two prominent capabilities: attraction and retention of the first rank of knowledgeable, creative, and caring faculty members in every area of research and instruction; and the assurance of access for the most qualified, talented, and enterprising students, bar none. Supporting Syracuse by endowing a special faculty position, a dedicated scholarship fund, or a new program is a way of saying, “This University is a beneficial institution, and I want to back it now and in the long run.”

Endowments create optimal academic environments in which faculty and students are free to take their work to the limit without worry about annual budget concerns. Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina believes this special protection makes an especially powerful gift to the University and notes that endowments are a top priority of The Campaign for Syracuse University. Spina also points out that by designating the use of an endowed fund, a supporter is making a clear and enduring statement of personal values. “An endowment is handled in such a way that each year the principal—the gift—yields enough interest to sustain the program it was designated for,” he says. “This turns one gift into many by freeing up capital in the general fund, allowing the University to be agile in response to unexpected challenges and opportunities. Come what may, the structure of endowed giving protects the programs nearest and dearest to those who made them possible.”

The following pages showcase examples of scholarships and professorships—both endowed and supported—at work at SU.



Remembrance Scholarship

Recipients: 35 seniors, chosen for distinguished academic achievement, citizenship, and service to community

Background: Established by SU to honor the memory of 35 students lost in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the endowed scholarships provide $5,000 to each recipient. The endowment is supported by gifts from alumni, friends, parents, and corporations, with significant support provided by C. Jean Thompson ’66 and Trustee Richard L. Thompson G’67, in memory of Jean Taylor Phelan Terry ’43 and John F. Phelan (Jean Thompson’s parents); and by the Fred L. Emerson Foundation.

Coronat Scholarship

Recipients: Highly accomplished, incoming first-year students interested in majoring in the liberal arts

Background: The University provides recipients with full four-year scholarships (including tuition, room and board, transportation, and books), with additional support for studying abroad, summer study, research, volunteer work, and other opportunities. Established jointly by the University and the College of Arts and Sciences in 2004, Coronat Scholarships reward promising students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership abilities, and commitment to service activities.



As an art history major, Roslyn Esperon ’08 has explored art and culture around the world, studying in Brazil, India, Ireland, Italy, and Spain. Amid her journeys, whether to a far-flung locale or downtown Syracuse, she revels in opportunities to nurture her passion for art. “Art has always been important in my life,” says Esperon, a Renée Crown University Honors Program student from Canfield, Ohio, who is both a Coronat Scholar and a Remembrance Scholar. “I enjoy the unspoken visual communication between artwork and our minds.”

She also enjoys sharing her love of art with others. On campus, she headed Thursday Screeners, a student film club, and interned at Light Work. This summer, she worked as an assistant manager at Delavan Art Gallery, an educational intern at the Everson Museum of Art, and a camp counselor for the Assisi Center’s North Side Mosaic Project. She also finds great satisfaction in helping Henninger High School students develop photography and creative writing skills through the University’s Literacy Through Photography project. “Every student is on a different level, and it’s a matter of appreciating how they’re growing individually,” says Esperon, whose honors thesis will focus on her work with the Henninger students. “They’re inspirational and, hopefully, we’re inspiring them as well.”

Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa last spring, Esperon credits the Coronat Scholars Program for providing financial support that made possible her travels, summer work, and other highlights of her education. “I always knew I wanted to attend SU,” says Esperon, whose parents were married in Hendricks Chapel (her father, psychologist James P. Esperon G’78, G’85, is a School of Education alumnus and former residence hall director). “Being asked to attend as a Coronat Scholar was a bonus. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Looking to the future, she hopes to land a Fulbright scholarship to teach English through art in Germany and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in art history, with the goal of establishing a career in museum education. More than anything, Esperon values the personal growth she has undergone at Syracuse. “Everyone has different experiences that influence their lives,” she says. “And Syracuse has certainly been one of those experiences for me.”


The Milton and Ann Stevenson Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering

Recipient: Patrick T. Mather, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science

Background: The University’s expanding commitment to biomedical and chemical engineering prompted the need for a leading figure in the field, and an endowment for the professorship from Milt ’52 and Ann McOmber Stevenson ’53 provided the means to do so. “Ann and I are extremely pleased that Dr. Patrick Mather accepted the new position,” says Milt Stevenson. “As head of the Center for Biomaterials, he will launch Syracuse University in an emerging technology. We look forward to the new research that will be conducted and the prestigious lectures that will be part of his scholarly activities.”





Patrick T. Mather knows a thing or two about going with the flow. A rheologist—a scholar who studies how matter flows and retains shape—Mather joined the Syracuse faculty this fall as the inaugural Milton and Ann Stevenson Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. “My research involves the invention and development of ‘smart’ polymers, substances capable of controlled responses to stimulation, such as heat or electricity,” says Mather, who comes to Syracuse from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “These materials have great potential for amazing new medical devices, consumer products, and military applications.” As an example, Mather cites a biodegradable polymer that can be surgically inserted as a slender thread and, once inside the body, change into a three-dimensional form capable of stenting a blocked artery.

A materials research engineer, Mather led the Air Force’s polymer processing group before committing to a teaching career. In 2001, while at the University of Connecticut, he won a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award for young faculty, which secured him five years of research funding. Not one to hide in the lab, Mather has since been honored with two teaching awards. “If you want to master a subject, teach it!” he says. Mather also does consulting work, believing it provides classroom advantages. “I bring professional development advice and anecdotes to class, which most students find a bit more captivating than engine analysis,” says Mather, whose clients have included Chevron-Phillips and Foster-Miller, a maker of HAZMAT robots.

Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina considers Mather quite a catch and credits the Stevensons for their vision and generosity. “Pat brings us everything we could possibly ask for,” Spina says. “He loves to motivate students, and he has created licensed technologies and spun off companies. The Stevenson chair was the crucial factor in hiring someone of his caliber.” 

Mather is already using the position’s resources to enhance SU’s reputation in biomedicine. “The discretionary funding allows me to create high-quality learning and research activities on a continuing basis,” he says.


Betty and Dean Wolcott Endowed Dean’s Scholarship

Recipients: Dean’s Scholars in the
College of Arts and Sciences

Background: The scholarship was established with a gift from Betty Berger Wolcott ’51 and Dean Wolcott ’50 in 1996. The Wolcotts also fund the Elizabeth G. Wolcott Dean’s Scholarship at the College of Human Services and Health Professions (HSHP) in memory of their daughter, a 1977 graduate of SU’s School of Nursing, and have endowed dean’s scholarship funds in their names at HSHP and the Whitman School of Management. “Our gifts are for students who want the kind of education we had, and it’s our way of saying thank you,” Dean Wolcott says. “We want to give more young people a chance to succeed.”






Romina “Mina” Llona ’08 is the first to admit she has strong opinions and isn’t shy about voicing them—whether the subject is Paris Hilton doing jail time, the influence of hip hop music, or the candidates for the next presidential election. From pop culture to politics and everything in between, she takes pride and pleasure in sharing her views with people who see things differently than she does.

At the top of her high school class in Union City, New Jersey, Llona came to Syracuse as a political science major in the College of Arts and Sciences, planning to go on to law school. But her involvement at student-run radio station WJPZ as a first-year student introduced her to the air waves and set her on a new career path—one she feels is ideally suited to her talents and goals. “Radio gives me a platform to speak about what I think needs to be spoken about,” says Llona, a dual major in political science and television, radio, and film, with a minor in music industry. “Also, I have always been a big music fan. So radio is perfect—I can learn about and listen to music I love, and I can talk, talk, and talk!”

Now vice president of programming at WJPZ, Llona has held radio internships at WWHT (HOT 107.9), a Clear Channel station in Syracuse, and with Emmis Communications in New York City. During her freshman, sophomore, and junior years, she also performed with Kalabash, a Caribbean dance troupe, and continues to assist the group as a videographer and film editor.

Llona, who holds a Betty and Dean Wolcott Endowed Dean’s Scholarship, is open-minded about the future. She hopes to work with a New York City radio station after graduating and to one day own a station, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of law school and becoming a media lawyer. Whatever she does, she’s grateful for the financial support that brought her to Syracuse University. “Without scholarships like this one, I wouldn’t have come here,” she says. “But I’m just one out of the batch. Everybody needs the same opportunity. Everyone should have the choice to go to school.”                                                                                             




During almost four decades at the Maxwell School, political science professor Robert D. McClure has conveyed an understanding and appreciation of American democratic institutions to generations of students. He has reached beyond campus to his field and to the public with a long list of books and articles, including The Unseeing Eye: The Myth of Television Power in National Elections (1976), co-authored with Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, which the American Association for Public Opinion Research counts among the most influential books on politics written during the past 50 years. McClure, who worked in Congress as legislative assistant to former Representative Lee Hamilton and reported on politics for the Scripps-Howard newspapers, has served the University as senior associate dean of the Maxwell School and director of the undergraduate honors program.

In 2006, Maxwell Dean Mitchel Wallerstein G’72 announced McClure’s appointment as Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy, a new faculty position made possible by a gift from John H. Chapple ’75, chair-elect of the SU Board of Trustees. “The Chapple Family Professorship is tied closely to undergraduate teaching and to the founding mission of the Maxwell School, both of which have been at the heart of my academic career,” McClure says. “This is a culminating honor for me, and a powerful incentive to press on and improve.”

Taking the long view, as he often does, McClure believes the endowed faculty position assures continuity for the curriculum first envisioned by school founder George Maxwell. “Commitment to the teaching of citizenship to undergraduates has been the centerpiece of the first 80 years of the school, and the Chapple Family faculty position ensures that it will continue to be so, without regard to academic fad or fashion,” McClure says. “Our obligation and ability to honor Maxwell’s gift is enabled and enhanced by the Chapple Family Professorship.” According to McClure, the position’s scholarly duties are no less essential to the future of citizenship. “If we are to teach citizenship in a meaningful way, our definition of it needs to be able to respond to shifting conditions,” he says. 



Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy

Recipient: Robert D. McClure, Department of Political Science, Maxwell School/College of Arts and Sciences

Background: The professorship was endowed with a $1.5 million gift from John H. Chapple ’75, chair-elect of the SU Board of Trustees, who wanted to support his belief in the Maxwell School’s mission. “I have always been interested in politics and government, and at SU I discovered the vital connection between the public and private sectors,” Chapple says. “George Maxwell was right; we all need to be involved in the process of educating students in citizenship. I hope this gift will help future generations gain awareness and understanding of that truth.”




Lois and Martin J. Whitman Graduate Scholarship

Recipients: African American and Latino students enrolled in graduate programs at the Whitman School of Management

Background: Established by Lois and Martin J. Whitman ’49, the endowed scholarship was first awarded in 2000-01. It pays full tuition costs and offers other financial assistance. “Giving back is a very satisfying experience,” Martin Whitman says. “Lois and I are fortunate to be able to support causes that mean so much to us. But what’s exciting is the knowledge that by giving back, you’re empowering others, mostly young people. You’re leaving an imprint on the future.”


Andrew Henry-Kennon G’08 is fascinated by the key role today’s human resource managers can play in strategizing a company’s future. They can assist in forecasting a company’s personnel needs and developing talent for business units or corporate functions. “What draws me to this field are the opportunities to be the middleman between an organization and its agents and to manage conflicts that arise,” says Henry-Kennon, who is pursuing an M.B.A. degree at the Whitman School.

Henry-Kennon, originally from Tallahassee, Florida, took an interest in HR and risk management as a College of Business undergraduate at Florida State University (FSU). He arrived at the Whitman School after hearing about its offerings from Dean Melvin T. Stith G’73, G’78, the former FSU business school dean. It turned out to be a good fit. “Whitman does a wonderful job of giving students a well-rounded curriculum to focus on business needs that may arise in any firm,” says Henry-Kennon, who has interned with Allstate and the human resources department of IBM’s Global Technology Services division. “The HR courses are beneficial because they are taught by individuals who have been in the field and have been doing research for a long time.”

Awarded the Lois and Martin J. Whitman Graduate Scholarship for both his first and second years, Henry-Kennon appreciates being recognized for his dedication and efforts in academics and extracurricular activities. He is vice president for social activities of the M.B.A. Student Association; chancellor of the Xi Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, the international professional business fraternity; and a member of the Whitman Consulting Club. The funding support also alleviates pressure to find a job or take out burdensome loans to pay for his education. “I can focus more on my studies,” he says.




David Sutherland might be described as a “Renaissance” person. An award-winning photographer who has taught photojournalism at the Newhouse School since 1979, he has captured images for some of the nation’s leading periodicals, including The Washington Post and Smithsonian. He counts math and science among his lifelong interests and earned an unlikely pair of master’s degrees in intercultural studies and business administration. He also holds a U.S. patent for work he did in college developing a method for detecting ultraviolet radiation using the thermoluminescence of sapphires. “You don’t need to know as much about chemistry as you once did to be a good photographer,” says Sutherland, who majored in journalism and minored in physics at Western Kentucky University. “But even in the digital age, you’re just depending on luck for a good picture if you don’t have an understanding of the mechanics of light, composition, and other basic factors that influence the outcome.” Sutherland is quick to add that there’s no substitute for establishing a personal connection with a subject. As a newspaper photographer, he has covered such events as the Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500. As a journalism professor, he created Western Kentucky’s photojournalism program, widely acknowledged as among the nation’s best.

Earlier this year, Sutherland was appointed as the inaugural Alexia Tsairis Chair in Documentary Photography, a position endowed by the Alexia Foundation for World Peace and Cultural Understanding. As Alexia chair, in addition to his work in teaching, researching, and promoting the art of documentary photography, Sutherland runs the annual Alexia International Photo Competition and coordinates a speaker’s bureau that arranges presentations for past winners at academic and professional meetings. His new job description even includes a seat on the foundation’s board of directors. “The Alexia chair has made my job easier and more difficult,” he says. “It demands some things I don’t know how to do easily, but offers advantages. For example, my duties include running the foundation’s web site, and that has broadened my reach far beyond the classroom. I have participated in forums and conferences I might never have known about. An endowed position creates all kinds of new options for education, public service, and self-development.” Sounds like a job for Renaissance person.



Alexia Tsairis Chair
in Documentary

Recipient: David C. Sutherland, Department of Photography and Graphics, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Background: Peter Tsairis and Aphrodite Thevos Tsairis created the Alexia Foundation for World Peace and Cultural Understanding in 1991 to honor their daughter, Alexia, an SU photojournalism student who was among those killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The Alexia chair was endowed with a $3 million gift from the Alexia Foundation to the Newhouse School. “Endowing a photojournalism chair at Syracuse in memory of our daughter is a way to honor a lost photographer’s dream, while promoting our [foundation’s] mission of supporting photographers doing important work to improve the human condition,” says Aphrodite Tsairis.





Information studies professor Ruth Small ’64, G’77, G’85 finds that K-8 schoolchildren don’t often associate reading books and using electronic technology. To remedy that disconnect, she created the E*LIT (Enriching Literacy through Information Teaching) program. “Each fall, we announce an author to teachers and school librarians across the region,” says Small, director of the Center for Digital Literacy (CDL). “They organize groups of their students to read as much as they can by and about the author, and produce collaborative electronic projects expressing what they’ve learned.”

Small was named a Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence last year, and at a Meredith Symposium, she told law professor Arlene Kanter about the E*LIT competition. “Arlene suggested we could enhance the learning experience by focusing on an author who has dealt with disability,” Small says. Following her fellow Meredith Professor’s suggestion, Small chose Myron Uhlberg, a photographer-writer who grew up with deaf parents. “Learning about his life was a consciousness-raising experience—wonderful for the kids and all of us,” Small says.

Small augmented the project with Meredith funds in several ways. E*LIT graduate assistants trained students at two city schools in interviewing techniques, so they could interview Uhlberg at the annual E*LIT campus luncheon. The winning project was a bilingual (English and Spanish) digital video produced by fifth-graders at Syracuse’s Seymour School. “Myron’s book inspired them to research people who overcame disabilities,” Small says. “Most were famous, such as Wilma Rudolph, the track star who suffered polio as a child. They also profiled Vladimiro Hart-Zavoli, a blind computer technician for the Syracuse City School District, who worked with children from three schools on their projects. We presented him with a signed copy of Myron’s book. The kids were thrilled. It was very moving.”

According to Small, CDL graduate students from Information Studies, Education, Maxwell, and Newhouse run the E*LIT competitions. “Between them, they have all the skills needed,” she says. “They get a lot out of working with teachers, librarians, kids—and each other. Once the ground rules are set, all I have to do is say, ‘Go!’”


Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence

Recipients: Meredith professorships are three-year appointments awarded to faculty members in recognition of teaching excellence and to support innovations in learning. All Meredith professors join the Meredith Symposium, an ongoing forum about teaching excellence.

Background:  Dr. L. Douglas Meredith ’26 focused his lifelong support for SU on encouraging and rewarding outstanding faculty. A $10.2 million bequest from his estate established the program to advance that goal. The honor provides an annual $22,000 stipend and $5,000 research fund to each recipient, as well as a $5,000 award to the recipient’s academic unit.



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