Mary Grace von Thron, Campus Carrier deputy news editor
On April 8 at 7p.m., Berry will host their annual Scholarship Night, an event dedicated to recognizing and thanking donors who have invested in Berry students and their education.
Director of Alumni Development Jennifer Schaknowski explained that Scholarship Night also serves as an opportunity for donors to connect with their student recipients.
“It’s a chance to recognize them, celebrate what they have done for Berry, and also to connect them with their student recipients,” Schaknowski said.
According to Cyndi Court, vice president for advancement, a large amount of donations made to student scholarship programs are in the form of endowments. According to the West Virginia University Foundation, an endowed scholarship is a donation of a large sum of money that is used to generate investment income that funds a scholarship or scholarship program continually.
“A lot of times the donor will give a current gift to support a scholarship recipient, but sometimes they make a much larger gift and they set up an endowment,” Court said. “So those funds will come to students every year from the endowment. Many of our donors have been doing this or their family’s been doing this for generations.”
At Berry, grants and scholarships are refered to as “gifts” because they are considered free money. According to the Berry College website, this is because financial aid does not have to be repaid given that grants are often need-based and scholarships are merit-based.
In years past, Scholarship Night was held in the Cage Center with dinner provided for donors. Last year, Scholarship Night was completely cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, donors will be invited to attend the event virtually.
Brenda Jenkins, director of donor relationships and stewardship, said that while Scholarship Night will be virtual this year, many of the event’s traditional aspects will be honored in some way, such as students holding candles as donors come into the Cage Center.
The origin of the candle holding tradition dates back to Martha Berry’s time.
“One of the things that Martha Berry actually started in her day was having her students line up in front of Hoge with candles when donors like Emily Vanderbilt Hamilton would come to Berry and visit Martha,” Schaknowski said.
During the event, donors will hear speeches from President Steve Briggs as well as a current Berry students who benefit from donor contributions, and Dallas Reynolds, a member from the Berry College class of 1965. Reynolds was able to attend Berry through a scholarship he received and now is a frequent donor to other Berry scholarship programs.
“[Reynolds] looks back at his time at Berry and how impactful and transformative it was in his life and how he wants to make sure he’s making that happen for the next generation,” Schaknowski said.
Several other alumni will share their story of how they have personally benefited from donor contributions.
Schaknowski explained that donors appreciate hearing how their donations have directly affected students who would not have been able to come to Berry without the help of a scholarship.
“It helps to reignite a donor’s passion for Berry and makes them feel good about their relationship with Berry and that they’re supporting the mission of Berry,” said Court.
Alumni Beth Earnst, class of 1993, was able to attend Berry through the help of donors. She later assisted in creating a work study scholarship in honor of her mentor at Berry, Ted Touchstone, who passed away in 2010.
Earnst mentioned that when she was a student she was not able to meet the donors who made it possible for her to attend Berry, so being able to meet students who have been directly impacted by her donations has been very special for her.
The theme for this year’s scholarship night is Lighting the Way. This theme evokes the symbolism of the donors’ investment in Berry students, as well as memories of the lines of student candleholders who have greeted supporters since the days of Martha Berry.