Foundation Scholars "forever grateful" for donors' generosity

By Ray Feldmann on April 11, 2017

The Foundation Scholars Luncheon kicked off the 2017 "Celebration of Excellence."

Heidi Stasiowski remembers the day when her parents broke the news. They would be moving out of the Hagerstown, Maryland, home she grew up in and relocating to Florida. She was a rising senior in high school and still had no idea about college or her future career plans.

One thing Stasiowski did know was that she was not the least bit interested in going to Florida. Which meant that she would stay behind in Maryland with no financial support, no home to live in, or even a legal guardian.

“I didn’t go with them because it wasn’t the best decision for me at the time,” Stasiowski recalled. “Fortunately, my friends’ family took me in, and I was able to finish high school in Maryland. I didn’t think my plans included college after high school due to my lack of financial support.”

Heidi Stasiowski
Heidi Stasiowski

Stasiowski was undeterred. She fired off several college application letters and ultimately, after several months of waiting, she received an acceptance letter from Towson University. But a lingering question remained: how would she ever pay for her college education?

Four years later, Stasiowski stood proudly – and a little nervously -- at the podium at last Friday’s Foundation Scholars Luncheon inside the Chesapeake Rooms of the University Union. Along with two other scholarship recipients, the soft-spoken senior who will graduate in a few weeks talked of how the generous gift from philanthropic donors made her dream of attending college a reality.

A mass communication major, Stasiowski received the Elizabeth Wainio Memorial Communications Scholarship Endowment, named in honor of the 1995 Towson University alumna who perished on United Airlines Flight 93 in Somerset County, Pa. on the morning of 9/11/01. That she was the recipient of that particular scholarship had a profound impact on Stasiowski, even though she was in elementary school when that tragic event occurred.

“I’ve read much about the person that Elizabeth was,” Stasiowski said Friday. “Her hard-working, selfless, generous qualities make me so proud to be a recipient of this scholarship. I will continue to give back to this fund for as long as I can, and try to live out my life and professional career in the way that she had.

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“To her family and friends, I hope you find comfort knowing that Elizabeth is still making an impact on people’s lives,” Stasiowski added. “Thank you.”

Celebration of Excellence mark

An annual recognition that Provost Dr. Timothy J.L. Chandler called “one of the best events of the year,” Friday’s Foundation Scholars Luncheon had a bit of a new twist this year. It was the first in a series of eight events that are part of a “Celebration of Excellence” that was launched this spring to better showcase the university’s best and brightest students, alumni, faculty and staff.

“Although these eight events are very different,” noted Molly F. Shock ’75, president of the TU Foundation Board, who served as master of ceremonies at the luncheon, “they all have one thing in common: celebrating excellence at Towson University.”

Seven additional “Celebration of Excellence” events will be held over the next four weeks, thus providing a perfect path toward what is arguably the university’s ultimate celebratory campus event: spring commencement.

Two other scholarship recipients also spoke at Friday’s luncheon:

  • Michael Boyle, recipient of the Robert H. and Ruth S. Sander Distinguished Presidential Scholarship
  • Carmen W. Gilliam, recipient of the James L. Dunbar, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Endowment.
Michael Boyle
Michael Boyle

In all, the Towson University Foundation administers 456 scholarship funds. Last year, the Foundation awarded nearly $1.5 million in financial aid to more than 700 students.

In his comments at the April 7 luncheon, Boyle spoke of his 2012 honorable discharge from the U.S. Army and his post-military job as a diesel mechanic with a trash removal company in Colorado. Eventually, the Baltimore native returned to Maryland and explored the field of nursing, primarily because both of his parents are nurses and he wanted to help others.

Boyle was ultimately accepted into the highly competitive nursing program at Towson University and has a current GPA of 4.0.

“I want every donor to know that you do more than contribute financially,” Boyle said Friday. “You give students the opportunity to spend less time working and more time studying. You give all of us the confidence to pursue our dreams. You make the impossible possible.”

Carmen Gilliam
Carmen Gilliam

Gilliam, originally a transfer student, will be graduating from TU next month with a business administration degree, with a concentration in marketing.

“You, Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar,” Gilliam said of the donors who made her scholarship possible, “are now a source of my daily motivation. You allow me to say with pride that I want to be like you. I want to continue to give back to my community, make a difference in others’ lives, and inspire others in the way you have inspired me.

“Receiving this scholarship took a large burden off my parents’ and my shoulders,” Gilliam added. “For that, I am forever grateful.”

Last Friday’s luncheon program also included a Foundation Scholars donor, Command Sergeant Major Richard E. Burdette III ’96, who contributed to the Dr. Armin Mruck Endowed Scholarship. Both Burdette and Mruck spoke prior to Shock’s introduction of the three current TU students.

The next “Celebration of Excellence” event is the Student Research and Creative Inquiry Forum, to be held on Wednesday, April 19 from 1–3 p.m. on the third floor of the University Union. This event is open to the public.