Roger Lehecka ’67, GSAS’74’s work as a student has come full circle, as the Double Discovery Center (DDC), a College program that works to foster college matriculation for low-income and first-generation middle and high school students in New York City, was renamed The Roger Lehecka Double Discovery Center in a ceremony on May 11.
CHRIS BALMER ’07, SOA’14
The renaming is thanks to a $2 million gift from an anonymous donor, which will be given in $400,000-a-year increments for five years in hopes of inspiring others to give to the center. “I am honored and humbled by this recognition,” said Lehecka, a member of DDC’s Board of Friends. “Double Discovery has helped thousands of deserving but needy New York City high school students since 1965, and I hope this donation will inspire others to help us change even more lives.”
The gift will serve two main purposes: funding the renovation of DDC’s tutoring and office space on the third floor of Alfred Lerner Hall and endowing DDC’s Freedom and Citizenship Program, a summer humanities program for DDC students. This endowment will also allow DDC to focus on solidifying its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiative, The Science Discovery Program.
Lehecka is known for his long dedication to Columbia. He was dean of students from 1979 to 1998 and then director of alumni programs and special adviser to the dean. He later was executive director of the Columbia250 celebration before retiring in 2005. Lehecka was one of the founders of Project Double Discovery in 1965; that pilot program, which focused on engaging Columbia students with the local community and helping the youth of those neighborhoods, grew into DDC, which now serves approximately 1,000 students each year through its core services, including after-school tutoring, Saturday enrichment classes, and college application and financial aid assistance.
Annually, 90 percent of high school seniors participating in DDC programs graduate from high school on time and enter college the following fall semester. DDC has successfully served more than 15,000 young people in its history.
Dean James J. Valentini said, “This gift … will help support DDC’s programs and opportunities for years to come. We are so glad to be able to recognize Roger and his commitment to DDC and to Columbia College in this way.”
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