Posted on Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The Seeds of Scholarship
By Elizabeth Fontaine Hildebrand '92
In the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, “legacy” is defined as “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” The seeds that Helen Louise Lemmon and her sister Margaret Lemmon Janisse planted are coming into bloom today, just four years after the creation of the Lemmon Family Scholarship. If they could see their legacy, they would be impressed with its yield, its variety, and its impact on the lives of some of Westminster’s brightest.
“Knowing that someone I never met before has donated on behalf of my scholarship makes me feel incredibly blessed,” said Katelynn Morrell, a junior neuroscience major and member of an elite group of student beneficiaries of the Lemmon Family Scholarship.
The endowed scholarship for students seeking careers in the sciences was born after Lemmon provided the College with a $7 million bequest, which included a charitable remainder unitrust for the benefit of her older sister. The sisters both attended Westminster in the 1930s, but neither graduated. Janisse passed away in 2010, while Lemmon—who, in her youth, dreamed of becoming a doctor—died in 2011.
While Lemmon’s dream may have been unfulfilled, the scholarship she established ensures that the similar dreams of today’s promising students can be realized.
“I am a first-generation college student,” said George Huncik, a rising sophomore who is contemplating a career in medical physics. “My father is a mechanic and my mother is an office manager. Without the Lemmon Family Scholarship, I would absolutely not be able to attend Westminster.”
With his freshman year now behind him, Huncik found the physics and mathematics programs challenging and rewarding, with professors who encourage his individual and intellectual growth. And although he is still on his path of discovery, he is confident his experience at Westminster College will give him an edge.
“I expect that no matter where I go after this—be it medical school, a Ph.D. program, or somewhere else entirely—that I will be well prepared because of the quality of education I’m getting here,” he said.
At Westminster, students work with faculty mentors and conduct cutting-edge research and present findings at national conferences. The sciences are Westminster’s fastest-growing majors, and the curriculum emphasizes experiential learning and preparation for success in their chosen fields.
Ashlyn Brown’s four years at Westminster were spent focused on her rigorous coursework and student activities such as serving as president of the Student Alumni Association and the Neuroscience Club—not on the financial burden that sometimes comes with a college education.
“The Lemmon scholarship was the determining factor in my decision to attend Westminster,” said Brown, who recently graduated magna cum laude and with All-College Honors in neuroscience.
“It has been unbelievably helpful to not worry myself over student loans or finances while I complete my undergraduate degree. “The course load I normally take on is stressful enough, and so eliminating financial worries was a huge advantage.”
Brown’s hard work has paid off; she will attend Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia this fall. She hopes to pursue a medical career in global health, practicing internationally and domestically.
Fellow neuroscience major Morrell took a step back to reevaluate her future plans following a cross country injury this academic year. After several weeks of rehabilitation, the cross country and track athlete began to shift her focus toward physical therapy.
“There is a great amount of neuroscience involved in physical therapy. I am excited to see where the combination of these passions will take me one day,” said Morrell, adding that after she obtains a doctorate of physical therapy, she hopes to specialize in neuro-rehabilitation. This summer, however, she will intern with the Youngstown State University’s Physical Therapy Department where she will gain hands-on experience in a variety of clinical settings.
“I certainly would not be where I am today, or who I am today, without this scholarship,” Morrell said. “I have been able to compete in the sport I love, create friendships that will last me a lifetime, and discover a career path I am truly passionate about.”
Regino Flores, who graduated cum laude with All-College Honors in biology, said the Lemmon Family Scholarship was the deciding factor when he was making his college choice—and it is a choice that he has never regretted. At Westminster, Flores developed meaningful relationships with his professors, formed strong bonds with his peers, and was active with student organizations such as the Men’s Choir and Concert Choir, Student Government Association, and Tri-Beta Biology Honors Society. The Lemmon scholarship gave him financial peace of mind, enabling him to travel to Greece as part of a Greek cluster course and to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic to perform with the choir.
“These travels have offered me lessons I couldn’t have learned anywhere else,” he said. “With the financial support of the Lemmon scholarship, I am able to participate in these activities that help to broaden my horizons as a student and as a citizen of the world.”
And just as Flores will never regret his choice to come to Westminster, neither will he forget those who helped him get here.
“I know that without the Lemmon sisters’ estate, I would be at a different institution,” he said. “I am humbled by the notion that somebody offered me the gift of a college education. But I know that because somebody helped me to succeed, I must pay it forward in both my daily life and in my memory for Westminster. I have had the time of my life here under the care of Mother Fair, all thanks to the generous contribution of the Lemmon sisters.”
Flores will attend Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton in August and will be commissioning as an offcer in the U.S. Air Force. After medical school, he hopes to serve as an Air Force physician.
To date, the Lemmon Family Scholarship has helped ease the financial burden of 15 science scholars, all of whom model the type of student Westminster aims to attract: bright, promising students with a penchant for success.
“Endowed scholarships such as the Lemmon Family Scholarship are the tools we use to bring talented, young minds to Westminster College,” said Dr. Peter M. Smith, professor of chemistry and chair of the Division of Biological, Chemical, and Environmental Sciences.
“The Lemmon scholars are the best of the best. They are highly motivated student leaders who serve as role models to many of their fellow students,” said Smith. “These students manage the challenges of our rigorous course load and lab demands—and they are well prepared for the high-quality programs and medical schools.”
“Their successes are our successes, and scholarships like Lemmon Family Scholarship will ensure that we continue to attract bright, promising scholars,” he said.
Brown said: “This scholarship exemplifies the essence of Westminster College. I hope to honor the Lemmons by carrying the Westminster legacy and values with me through my future career and to spread that same caring, generous, friendly spirit that Westminster has cultivated in me.”
Read the latest edition of the Westminster College magazine here.