The Online Edition

President’s Letter – Spring/Summer 2016

Founders Gala Ensures 

Wilkes’ Sacred Mission Continues


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Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy addresses attendees at Founders Gala 2016, held June 4 at the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Barre. PHOTO BY KNOT JUST ANY DAY.

The Founders Gala – started just three years ago – is becoming an important new tradition at Wilkes University. I say it’s important, but not just because it’s a great party. It is important because of two goals that the Founders Gala accomplishes.

The first goal of this gathering is to remember and honor people who have advanced this institution from its beginnings as Bucknell University Junior College to the University we know today. This year’s President’s Medal recipients, Clayton and Theresa Karambelas, clearly are among those whose contributions have advanced this institution – not the least of which is the gift they have made to create the Karambelas Media Center, which you will read about on the On Campus page.

Just as importantly, the Founders Gala’s second goal – to raise money for the First Generation Scholarship Fund – continues to be of vital importance. Since its inception, this event has raised $1 million for the fund. To understand why that is important, let me give you a few numbers to consider: $74,000, 41 percent, and 50 percent. The average annual income of our freshman families is $74,000, well below other private schools across the nation. The number of first-year students who are Pell eligible – that is, eligible for the federal aid program for the neediest students – is 41 percent, well above other private schools across the nation. And, 50 percent of our first-year students – even today in 2016 – are the first in their families to pursue a four-year college degree, again well above other private schools across the country.

We have a sacred mission here at Wilkes: to find individuals with promise – who need that extra mentoring – and offer it to them, no matter their socio-economic situation. Because after all of our efforts to keep the cost of a Wilkes education affordable, after all of the institutional aid that we can offer, after all of the federal and state aid programs that we can tap, sometimes gaps remain that prevent first-generation students from affording a Wilkes education. The First Generation Fund bridges these gaps.

In just three years, we’ve been able to start an event that will ensure that Wilkes will be able to continue its sacred mission of educating first-generation college students. And that is something that we can celebrate year-round as we see those students on campus, taking advantage of all that Wilkes University offers.

Dr. Patrick F. Leahy

Wilkes University President