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Paying It Forward

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Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III, ’77, P’11, Chair of the Board of Trustees

One of the most salutary benefits of serving as chair of our Board of Trustees is the opportunity to visit our alumni in all parts of the world. The contacts I’ve made confirm the value that a Dickinson education has provided to our students over countless generations. They also personally renew me and enhance my feeling of pride in our college.  

It was just such a sojourn, prepandemic, that took me to the Miami area this past February, where I had the privilege of spending time with Sam Rose ’58. I have known Sam for several years in connection with his generous gifts to our college, not the least of which has been the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. I have always found Sam to be a delight—he is passionate, thoughtful, candid, penetratingly intelligent and possessed of an abundant if somewhat sardonic sense of humor. A few years ago, Sam spoke at Commencement upon the awarding of the aforementioned prize—an experience that I have likened to watching a high-wire act due to Sam’s predilection forcalling things as he sees them. When I encountered Sam after the ceremony, I joked, “Sam, your problem is that you never say what’s on your mind.” This elicited a hearty laugh from Sam, who clearly enjoyed the moment.

Sam has been written about frequently in these pages, and my purpose in mentioning him is not to revisit his remarkable successes in life and business. Rather, I want to talk about what Sam has meant to his alma mater and how instructive that should be for every Dickinson alum.  

Not long after I arrived at Sam’s winter home, I sat down with him as he carefully read the thank-you letters that had been submitted by the many Dickinson students who benefit from Sam’s incredible generosity in funding scholarships. The satisfaction Sam derived from these letters was palpable as he considered each one in turn. Just like Sam, these students were at Dickinson only because of financial aid and scholarships. Over the course of my several days with him, Sam recounted just how close he came to withdrawing from Dickinson due to lack of funds. It is clear that this experience has always informed Sam’s spirit of philanthropy when it comes to his alma mater.

Today, over 77% of Dickinson students receive financial aid and scholarships, and the average institutional grant surpasses $35,000. If not for this level of assistance, more than 1,300 of our students would potentially not be able to attend Dickinson. This comprises 65% of our student body, and any measurable diminution in aid would leave Dickinson for only the wealthiest few. The impact this would have on diversity, not to mention our ability to attract the best and brightest, is abundantly clear.

When you make a gift to Dickinson that enhances the college’s ability to fund scholarships, regardless of the size, you are truly paying it forward. You will experience your own version of the satisfaction Sam Rose feels when he reads those letters—it is the quiet but profound joy of knowing that you have helped to make a life-changing education accessible to someone who will have a hand in shaping the world you live in.

The world has changed markedly since that visit, but happily Sam Rose hasn’t. His commitment to our college is stronger than ever. Try to imagine Dickinson without Sam. I certainly can’t. Let’s all try to be more like this terrific Dickinsonian. By emulating Sam’s philanthropic spirit, we will ensure that students destined to achieve great successes will continue to make Dickinson their college of first choice.  

Read more from the fall 2020 issue of Dickinson Magazine.



Published November 6, 2020