Roone Arledge Auditorium in Alfred Lerner Hall was filled on February 2 as almost 500 scholarship donors and student recipients met and mingled at the annual Dean’s Scholarship Reception. This special event brings together donors and students in a relaxed setting so they may get to know one another.
Interim Dean James J. Valentini addressed the group, holding a piece of paper and saying, “This is a ledger sheet … as of yesterday [February 1, 2012] we spent this year more than $70,000,000 on financial aid. But that’s not financial aid. Those are entries in an account statement. Financial aid is about is about people helping other people. … I personally thank all the donors for sending us these students. Without them, life at Columbia would not be nearly as rich.”
Valentini added that as the College dean, he believes there are only three stages of life: “future Columbia College student, current Columbia College student and former Columbia College student. Financial aid is largely about former Columbia College students — or their families, or their parents, or their relatives — who have made generous contributions not to the College, not to the University, but to current students. This is an intergenerational relationship that connects former students to current students.”
Valentini introduced Francisco Lopez-Balboa ’82, benefactor of the Frank and Victor Lopez-Balboa Scholarship Fund with his twin, Victor ’82. Lopez-Balboa, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba with his parents as a baby, recalled how it took 10 years to pay off his College and graduate school loans. Now in a position to be financially generous, he wants things to be easier for today’s students. “As I reflected on my Columbia experience, before, during and after Columbia,” he said, “it was apparent and really important to me to be in position to help students afford and attend a great school.”
Lopez-Balboa introduced Komal Kothari ’12, a double major in biology and economics who emigrated to the United States from India at 6 and grew up in Edison, N.J. She will attend medical school and hopes to pursue a career in public health and global development. Kothari, the recipient of the Isabel and Irving N. Tolkin Memorial Scholarship Fund as well as the Charles Halstead Cottington Scholarship Fund–Columbia College, eloquently expressed how much it meant to her to receive these scholarships. “I distinctly remember April 1, the day I received my acceptance to Columbia. As I read and reread the letter, I felt both joy and anxiety. My mind raced with the exciting possibilities awaiting me at Columbia, but I was concerned that my family might not be able to send me here.”
Kothari added how thrilled she was to learn that alumni support would allow her to attend. “From the moment I entered those gates on 116th and Broadway I have felt engaged and stimulated,” she said. “I have grown so much in these past four years. I have had access to myriad opportunities that I might not have encountered otherwise. The Core has taught me new ways of seeing the world and cultivated in me a habit of inquiry. … The connections I have built here will last me a lifetime.”