STORRS, CT — The former chairman of the University of Connecticut’s board of trustees and his wife have donated $1 million to UConn in an effort to “help students struggling from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” the UConn Foundation announced Thursday.
The from Dr. John W. Rowe and his wife, Valerie, is designed to “provide an immediate infusion of spendable cash to buoy students in the Rowe Scholars program, many of whom had lost on-campus and summer jobs and struggled to pay tuition,” UConn Foundation officials said.
The gift “doubled their scholarships” and helped with books, fees, and other pressing expenses, according to the announcement.
“I was surprised, thrilled, and grateful when I heard about it,” said Meghan Long, of Middletown, a Rowe Scholar majoring in physiology and neurobiology. Because of COVID-19, her summer internship at Hartford Hospital had been canceled, officials said. She was “scrambling” to pay for fall tuition.
The Rowe Scholars program was initiated 16 years ago. Through it, UConn “recruits underrepresented Connecticut students with high financial need into the health sciences.” The program provides scholarships and mentoring to prepare students for a broad range of health care jobs, such as, pharmacists, nurses, and physicians.
“This thoughtful gift could not come at a more critical time for these students and the University. We are so grateful to the Rowes for their generous support,” UConn President Tom Katsouleas said.
Rowe, who was the chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2009, said he still feels a strong connection to UConn and the Rowe Scholars program. He was chairman and CEO of Aetna at the time and steered the university through a “period of tremendous growth.” He oversaw the upgrade and expansion of the campus and was “instrumental in increasing student enrollment and the university’s national academic ranking.”
The Rowes, both academics, live in New York City. John Rowe teaches at Columbia University, where he is the Julius B. Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging in the School of Public Health. Valerie Rowe, who holds a doctorate degree, is a retired associate professor at Fordham University’s School of Education.
The Rowes said they hope the Rowe Scholars program helps to start closing “racial disparities” in the medical field.
“It’s nice to see the impact it’s made on them and the impact that it will make going forward as they get out in the workforce,” Valerie Rowe said. “In the long run, I think it will make a difference.”
Jennifer Lease Butts, who oversees the Rowe Scholars program as director of the Honors Program, said donations like this one help UConn attract and support top students from Connecticut.
“The Rowe Scholars program is a wonderful example of the ways support from donors helps us attract the best students to UConn,” Lease Butts said. “This program makes a huge difference for students, providing both the ability to afford college and the benefits of a community of caring and supportive peers who share a commitment to becoming a health professional.”
This article originally appeared on the Across Connecticut Patch