Several milestones - not the least being a record turnout of students, family members and donors - were achieved at SUNY Fredonia's annual Scholars' Breakfast.
An estimated 1,200 people filled Steele Hall Arena to witness the recognition of several hundred students and donors whose gifts have made higher education a reality for so many. New endowments that are among more than 400 created through the Fredonia College Foundation awarded their first scholarships, a contributing factor in the attendance rise of the Saturday gathering.
It was only fitting, then, that the Gavin Family Scholarship Endowment, one of 12 new funds, awarded scholarships to two students majoring in chemistry on the cusp of an exciting era in science and science education at SUNY Fredonia. The new Science Center is scheduled to open next fall.
Jerome Gavin joins the Gavin Family Scholarship’s first recipients, Tyler Coccarelli and Eunna Huh. Both students are juniors majoring in chemistry at SUNY Fredonia.
With roots in both Dunkirk and the campus, the endowment was created in 2011 by the Gavin family following the unexpected death of Dr. Peter F. Gavin, a graduate of Dunkirk High School and SUNY Fredonia, class of 1992. In setting up guidelines for the scholarship, Dr. Julia Butchko, Peter's wife of 17 years and a SUNY Fredonia graduate ('93), wanted undergraduate students to have the same valuable experience that she and her late husband had of performing research early in their college career under the supervision of Chemistry faculty at SUNY Fredonia.
Dr. Gavin, who majored in Chemistry at SUNY Fredonia and went on to earn a doctorate from Penn State University, dedicated his career to science research. His passion at pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly & Company was bringing new, innovative medicines to patients. Both of Dr. Gavin's parents, Jerome and Natalie, are SUNY Fredonia graduates.
Members of the Gavin family attended the Scholars Breakfast and met the fund's inaugural recipients, Tyler Coccarelli, a graduate of Brocton Central School, and Eunna Huh, of the Republic of Korea.
"It means a lot to be recognized for my research endeavors," said Coccarelli, who was proud to note that both he and his benefactors are from the same area. His parents, Anthony and Rebecca Coccarelli, are pleased that their son's hard work and study are being recognized by the scholarship.
Beyond scholarships, the Gavin legacy will be a permanent part of the Science Center. The glass-enclosed meeting room that overlooks the Science Quad and atrium will be known as Gavin Aerie.
Whatever way it's measured, the Scholars' Breakfast, a unique SUNY Fredonia tradition, has grown. Just 87 students were awarded scholarships totaling $17,000 in the first gathering held 27 years ago in the former Cranston Dining Center. The program had to be relocated twice due to growing attendance sparked by the addition of scholarships and endowments that support those awards. Steele Arena has been its home for the last six years, but even that facility may be outgrown in the not-too-distant future.
"Because the event continues to grow, we probably have another one or two years of keeping it at the field house without placing a real hard cap on attendance or changing the format," said Associate Director of Development Rich Ryan, who organizes the program every year. "That's a good problem to have."
The original goal of the Scholars Breakfast - which the numbers convincingly demonstrate it has clearly achieved - was to bring together student scholarship recipients and their benefactors. This year, thanks to the generosity of donors, over 800 students received scholarship awards totaling over $1 million.
Debra Horn Stachura ('75), chair of the Fredonia College Foundation Board of Directors, welcomed guests at this year's ceremony. She was followed by President Virginia Horvath and Vice President for Advancement David Tiffany.
A donor testimonial was offered by William Finn ('83) and his wife, Rachel Martinez-Finn ('82).
Lauren Orlowski, a senior Public Relations major and recipient of a Carol Prevet Dance Scholarship, recalled Walt Disney's observation that curiosity leads us down new paths. He inspired dreamers to test their limits and never underestimate the power of curiosity because one doesn't know what opportunities lie ahead.
"Being a student at SUNY Fredonia has allowed me to do just that, dream endlessly and let my curiosities turn into realities. But this wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for the financial support that I have received from Fredonia, and for this, I am very grateful," Orlowski said.
Being in great hands financially at Fredonia enabled Orlowski to solely concentrate on what she came to college to do - obtain a degree in public relations.
Recognition of scholarships, benefactors and recipients concluded the program.