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Scholarship creators, recipients celebrated at annual luncheon

Towson University honored its scholarship recipients and the donors who endowed those scholarship funds at its tenth annual Foundation Scholars Luncheon on Friday.

These students at the 10th Annual Foundation Scholars Luncheon are among the 727 awarded scholarships this academic year.

These students at the 10th Annual Foundation Scholars Luncheon are among the 727 awarded scholarships this academic year.

More than 700 students were awarded scholarships this academic year, from 350 scholarship accounts in the Towson University Foundation. For some students and alumni, a scholarship was the driving force that moved them to lead after graduation. For others, it was the only way they ever could.

“As an immigrant and a single mother, my mom did not have the privilege of being able to lay aside enough money to pay for my college education,” said Al Tan ’18, an occupational therapy major attending with the Sarah Elliott Tolson (Traband) Class of 1883 Scholarship. “Her financial concerns were more immediate, like the mortgage bill or groceries for the week.”

“This scholarship has allowed me to go to the university I have been wanting to attend since I was a sophomore in high school,” explained freshman and intended elementary education major Isabella Thornett in a frequently tearful speech. One of eight recipients of the inaugural James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships endowed by the prolific mystery author, Thornett is the daughter of a single mother who immigrated from El Salvador alone at the age of 17.

“Coming from the background that I come from, I knew I couldn’t apply to six different universities. I had to pick one school, a school that catered to my every need as a student as well as a future teacher.

“Towson is my own version of Wonderland.”

The students and scholarship donors also heard from Towson alumna Edna May Merson ’45, who has endowed two scholarships amid a lifelong career as a teacher and principal. Her father refused to allow her to join the Women’s Army Corps at the onset of U.S. involvement in World War II. He asked what she wanted to do instead.

“There weren’t many choices in 1942,” Merson said. “A girl could either be a nurse, a teacher, a secretary or a mother. So I said, ‘Then I want to go to Towson.'”

Merson earned her degree, and then a master’s degree, before pursuing her doctorate. She spent 41 years with Baltimore County Public Schools, 30 as a principal, and has led or belonged to local and national boards. She was named a Towson University Distinguished Alumna in 1986.

“I know I never could have done what I did without Towson,” she said.

University President Maravene Loeschke ’69/’71 acknowledged that she, herself, would not be where she is without the scholarship she earned as a Towson undergraduate. She told scholarship donors that the university is deeply grateful for their endowments, and urged the students who attend on those scholarships to be ever mindful of that support.

“Remember, now, these people at the table invested in you,” she told the students. “So you can show that it mattered that they did [invest], by the excellence that you provide.”

Foundation Board President Molly Shock ’75 emceed the luncheon, which hosted deans and other members of the university community as well as scholars and donors.

“You are the driving force behind this university, and your dedication and talents inspire all of us,” she told the students. “You are all truly talented, amazing individuals who embody the spirit of Towson University.”

That spirit, demonstrated in so many Towson students, came into focus when Sadie Lockhart ’15, a double major in Acting and Spanish, talked about her three years involved in Towson’s chapter of Students Helping Honduras. The TU chapter has raised nearly $100,000 and opened a bilingual school and a girls’ home to provide access to education for children in poor Honduran villages. Lockhart, who received the Alexander E. Sidorowicz Memorial Fund scholarship named for the former dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, is one of dozens of Towson students who have raised the funds, then traveled to Honduras to meet the children and do the work required to open those facilities.

“My adventures on this planet would be very different had I not come to Towson University,” she told donors. “It is because of your scholarships, support and donations that thousands of students, including myself, have access to education, and the freedom and opportunity to change the world.”

Towson University Foundation scholarships are endowments supported by donations. To pledge your support, click here.

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