Published October 14, 2019

By Amy Vames

Rutgers trustees pay forward through financial aid endowment effort

Because of limited financial resources, a growing number of Rutgers undergraduates are either unable to complete their degrees or are finishing college with burdensome debt. In an effort to help more students avoid those outcomes, Rutgers’ Board of Trustees has created an endowment that will provide, in perpetuity, more need-based aid. The board will work with Rutgers University Foundation to raise $3 million for the Scarlet Promise Grants endowment within the next 10 years. The initiative grew out of a concern by the Rutgers Board of Trustees that too many students drop out of school due to financial reasons. To kick off the endowment campaign, three trustees—Mary DiMartino; James Dougherty RC’74, GSNB’75, chair of the board; and philanthropy task force chair Ken Johnson ENG’66—have made gifts of $100,000 each.

DiMartino DC’85, former chair of the board, explains why she and her husband, Victor DiMartino CC’82, wanted to support the endowment. As the first in their families to go to college, the DiMartinos understood the sacrifices others made to help them achieve their dreams. “We were thinking of ways to give back and that coincided with the work the Board of Trustees was doing to address student financial need,” DiMartino says. “It’s humbling and exciting to know that we’ve benefited from the support and generosity of others. Now it’s our turn to give back and help others as they pursue their dreams of a college education.”

Scarlet Promise Grants (formerly Rutgers Assistance Grants) have had a life-changing impact on about 11,000 undergraduate students universitywide. Dominik Sepko, who will graduate in 2021 from the School of Engineering, is just one of those student recipients.

“It always blows my mind how people, basically strangers, can be so generous and so willing to invest their own hard-earned resources and time into what they believe to be the future, which is the education of the next generation,” says Sepko.

“What the Rutgers Assistance Grant means to me, plain and simple, is that I probably wouldn’t be able to pay for school without it. These grants have been a lifesaver. It really brings me a lot of hope and optimism about the future that there are people who want to invest in kids like me. One day, after I graduate and am successful, I hope to pay the same forward as was given to me. It’s only right.”

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