Students at Saint Mary's who are considering careers in the health science and journalism fields, but need help paying for college, now have a new scholarship fund to apply to for assistance. On Nov. 6 the College celebrated a scholarship endowment from the estate of Robert W. Summers in the amount of $1 million.
The College acknowledged the generous gift at a ceremony in the lobby of the science building, Brousseau Hall. Attended by Mr. Summers' friends and family and members of SMC's science and communication faculty, the observance formally recognized the major philanthropic contribution to Saint Mary's.
Brother President Ronald Gallagher said the bequest reflects the high esteem Mr. Summers had for Saint Mary's College. "He was impressed not only with the great education students receive here, but also the spiritual and social development they derive from our faculty and staff."
Mr. Summers was not an alumnus of the College, nor was he Catholic. However, he held the school's Catholic, Lasallian and liberal arts traditions in great regard. He also was a very close friend of alumnus Jerry Fitzpatrick '41, who died in 2008. Their friendship proved significant. "Mr. Fitzpatrick became a mentor to Bob after his father passed away, " said Mrs. Henry J. Kaiser Jr. A long time friend of Summers, Kaiser said "he learned all about the college from Mr. Fitzpatrick and grew to admire Saint Mary's very much."
"Helping deserving students at Saint Mary's College continue their education was extremely important to him," said Linda Fitzpatrick, a close friend, trustee for Mr. Summers' estate and the daughter-in-law of the late Jerry Fitzpatrick. Speaking at the ceremony, Fitzpatrick said "He was very generous. The endowment is in keeping with his concern for young people. He had such a good heart."
A former corporate director of public affairs for Chevron, Mr. Summers appreciated students pursuing careers in journalism and public relations, according to Fitzpatrick. She added that as a result of the care his late sister, Beverly Summers, received in various hospitals, he also thought highly of those pursuing careers in health science and medicine. In honor of both Mr. Summers and his sister, the scholarship fund is named the Robert W. Summers and Beverly Jean Summers Endowment Fund.
School of Science Dean Brian Jersky said the endowment will provide talented science students with opportunities to continue their education and pursue medical research. "We have a wonderful science program here and this gift can open doors for exceptional but financially challenged students," said Jersky. He pointed to the College's ongoing summer science research program as an specific area where SMC students will benefit from the gift and be able to broaden their education for health science careers.
School of Liberal Arts Dean Steve Woolpert said he greatly appreciated the generous gift, especially in these tough economic times. "It will allow talented students with limited resources to gain the knowledge, values and skills they need to enter the 21st-century world of multimedia journalism and public relations," said Woolpert.
Journalism and communication professor Father Michael Russo also spoke at the ceremony. Not only will the gift support SMC students with strong academic interests in journalism, Russo said it also provides stipends for deserving student editors on the student newspaper. "This is the first time the College has provided financial support for students on the Collegian," said Russo. "It's very important to advance our aspiring â€˜citizen journalists.' The Summers gift provides opportunities for students to seriously cover news events at the college and the surrounding communities." Student scholarships from the new endowment fund will be available starting in spring 2010.
Robert W. Summers died in 2007 at the age of 76. He was a resident of Blackhawk, Calif. In addition to his role of corporate director of public affairs of the East Bay for Chevron, Mr. Summers was a former chief of protocol for the City of Oakland, a member of the Board of Regents of Holy Names University and a Mount Diablo Hospital Foundation board member. Mr. Summers strongly believed in giving back to the community and supporting charities. His philanthropic support also included the Berkeley Boys Club, American Cancer Society, Easter Seals, Heart-Lung Institute of the East Bay and the Arts of the East Bay.
A portrait of Mr. Summers was unveiled at the ceremony. The portrait, along with a perpetuity plaque for the names of scholarship recipients, will hang in the lobby of Brousseau Hall.