There was a time when senior Amy Roth — now a psychology major heavily involved in research and several on-campus groups — was unsure of whether she would even be attending college.
“I needed to have something magical work out, if it was going to happen at all,” Roth said in an interview.
Maybe magic isn’t the word, but something extraordinary certainly happened for Roth, as she ended up becoming an Alan and Jane Handler Scholar, meaning an expense-free UR education.
Now, due to a staggering $20 million donation to the fund by its founders Rich and Martha Handler, more outstanding under-privileged students will be able to receive the same opportunity.
The scholarship fund started in 2007 with a $5 million donation in honor of Rich Handler’s parents. The donation given on Tuesday, Feb. 1 brings the Handlers’ total contribution to undergraduate scholarships to $25 million — by far the largest in UR history.
The scholarship covers all University expenses, including tuition, room and board and books. Scholars are chosen upon application to the University based on their scholarship potential, financial need and leadership.
“[Rich Handler] wants, in effect, to level the playing field,” President Joel Seligman said in a press conference on Tuesday.
When the scholarship was first created, the intent was for there to be only one Alan and Jane Handler Scholar per year. That number quickly expanded, however, to help about four students attend the College of Arts, Science and Engineering and one or two attend the Eastman School of Music each year.
Although allotment of the new funds is not yet finalized, Seligman assured that the number of students from both schools receiving the scholarships will be increasing in the coming years. At the press conference, Seligman also pointed out the potential benefits of the donation to recruitment, as it will offer an even greater number of talented students access to the University.
Additionally, it has been announced that one of the Alan and Jane Handler scholarships given out by the University each year will be in honor of Jeffrey Bordeaux, Jr., who exemplified the potential that students of modest backgrounds can possess.
Roth heavily emphasized the fact that, without the Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship, she would never have had many of the opportunities afforded her by UR. Notably, Roth, who had never left the country before coming to UR, spoke of how not having the looming burden of school loans allowed her to explore opportunities beyond US soil, including a semester abroad in Vienna.
“That was such an amazing experience,” Roth said. “It opened my eyes to another language and culture, as well as a perspective on how the rest of the world sees America.”
Roth also got an internship in London through the University — an experience that she says was immensely helpful in narrowing her career choices.
Amy Roth’s brother, Aaron Roth, is also an Alan and Jane Handler Scholar, and he echoed the sentiment that his future was shaped in large part by the scholarship.
“I do think I would have gone to another school [without the scholarship], but it would have been more difficult, because my parents can’t support me at all,” he said. “I would have probably ended up at some local college in Tennessee.”
“The Handler scholarship means for me the opening of so, so many doors,” said Alejandro López-Samamé, another recipient, at the press conference.
According to Seligman, although the Handlers may be setting the pace, they’re certainly not the only ones making substantial donations to undergraduate scholarships at the University. In fact, since 2005, UR has received around $113 million in new funding for them.
“There is an acute sense, in an age where we are suffering from high unemployment, where many people are financially pinched, that without scholarship support like this, access to great universities would be cut off,” Seligman said at the press conference. “This would be a tragedy.”
Seligman also emphasized that Rich Handler didn’t want to be at the press conference, as his preference is that the focus remain fixed on the students.
“And the weather cooperated with him,” Seligman added, drawing a few laughs from the crowd.
Handler’s commitment to the students he supports is perhaps most evident, however, in his interactions with the scholars themselves. According to Amy Roth, Handler attempts to set up a meeting with the scholars each year to impart on them the desire to give back when the opportunity presents itself.
“I really appreciated that,” Roth said. “I think people want to support the University, but it’s another thing entirely to make time to get to know us individually.”
According to her brother Aaron, Handler’s message is hitting home.
“What I’ve taken away from it is that I have to return that same favor to someone else in some form or fashion at some point in my life,” he said.
Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.