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Million-dollar Osher Foundation gift assists ASU students

May 12, 2008

A $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation, plus an additional $50,000 bridge grant for the 2008-09 academic year, will provide scholarships annually to 20 or more Arizona State University students attending the West campus.

The scholarship fund targets adult students returning to school after a gap in their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Unlike many other scholarships, Osher Reentry Scholarships are available to part-time as well as full-time students.

“This generous gift further solidifies our strong working relationship with the Bernard Osher Foundation,” says John Hepburn, dean of ASU’s College of Human Services, which also houses the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Arizona State University.

For the past two years the Bernard Osher Foundation has provided $50,000 annually in scholarships for reentry students in Human Services and the three other ASU colleges and schools located on the West campus – New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences; Teacher Education and Leadership; and Global Management and Leadership. Establishment of the $1 million endowment makes the scholarship program a permanent fixture on the West campus.

Of ASU’s four campuses, the West campus possesses the highest percentage of undergraduate students in the 25 to 50 age range (32.9 percent, as of Fall 2007).

“We’re interested in seeing more people earn a bachelor’s degree,” says Andy Lynch, program officer for the Bernard Osher Foundation. “Students returning to school later in life often have family and financial obligations greater than those of traditional students. At the same time, reentry students regularly receive less financial aid support. The Osher Reentry Scholarship is intended to fill that gap.”

Reentry students are a tremendous asset to ASU’s student body, according to Osher Reentry Scholarship faculty advisor Vincent Waldron, professor of communication studies and faculty research director of ASU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. “Most reentry students are bright, hard-working and well-organized, and they also possess life experiences that enrich classroom discourse,” Waldron says.

“The scholarship I received from the Osher Foundation helped me continue my education without delay, and I am very grateful for their support,” says Bonnie Wentzel, a previous scholarship recipient. “It took me 25 years to become a Sun Devil. As a lifelong Valley resident, a degree from ASU was always my goal.”

Wentzel says support from her husband and three children was critical to her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. She graduated from the College of Human Services and the Barrett Honors College in May 2007. Wentzel now is pursuing a master’s degree in communication studies, working toward a goal of teaching at the college level and establishing a non-profit organization dedicated to helping other multiple-role students who return to college later in life.

As part of her master’s degree program, Wentzel is organizing an April 2009 conference at ASU’s West campus designed to “Celebrate Adults in the College Classroom.” Students, college and university support staff, and community organization representatives will be invited.

“Bonnie is a perfect example of the type of talented, enthusiastic reentry student who can benefit from an Osher Reentry Scholarship,” Waldron says.

Full-time undergraduate students in any of the four colleges on ASU’s West campus typically are awarded Osher scholarships worth $2,000 or more. Part-time students are eligible for smaller awards depending on the tuition bill they face. Recipients are chosen based on criteria including academic performance and financial need.