Science Departments to Award Top Seniors Thousands; Others Lack Endowed Funds

Upon graduation this May, one Pomona College senior majoring in physics, chemistry, or a related hard science will find themselves suddenly $12,000 richer. The John Stauffer Scholarship for Academic Merit, granted to a senior student each year who exhibits the highest academic promise, is given jointly by those departments to reward academic performance in the sciences.

The most a history major could be awarded for similarly high performance, however, is $750, according to History Department Chair Victor Silverman.

Certain departments are able to award their highest achieving students large monetary gifts because of endowed awards that are created and supported by interested alumni. Some departments, like history, have decided to cap their awards, even from endowed funds, and siphon the remaining money into other endeavors like Summer Undergraduate Research Program funding.

The Stauffer award is supported by a fund endowed in 1984 by the John Stauffer Charitable Trust, a nonprofit devoted to supporting the sciences in Southern California. Like all awards financed by endowed funds, the money underwriting the award is currently invested in the college’s overall endowment and is only drawn upon at the end of the school year.

“Some of the prizes come from endowed funds, some are provided for by the Dean of Students Office, some are books, some are trophies, some are grants for academic travel over the summer,” said Daren Mooko, Associate Dean of Students for Student Development and Leadership.

Mooko said that when it comes to funds given by alumni, the donors have total discretion in defining their criteria and the monetary value of the prizes.

“There are some endowed prizes where it is almost impossible to determine the exact parameters and intentions of the donor, so we go off the last communication with the donor,” Mooko said.

Because the college does not create or define the awards and simply complies with the donors’ desires per the original donor agreement, the endowed funds are limited in their use.

“The endowed funds really are restrictive in regards to keeping it as a prize fund. That’s a big discussion: Should we be giving multiple prizes or doing something with the money that’s a benefit to the college?” said Connie Schmitz, Associate Director of Donor Relations.

Mooko said that while some departments have endowed funds that support awards, others, such as Africana Studies, lack the monetary support from alumni to establish such a fund.

“In those cases, the Dean of the College will offer to fund a prize. There are both departmental prizes and program prizes,” Mooko said, referring to some majors, such as Middle Eastern Studies, which lack a department on campus.

Departmental awards are not the only prizes given to seniors; the Kappa Delta Award, established by a group of fraternity alumni in 1926, last year awarded $8,000 to “an outstanding, all-around man who shows qualities of character, intellect, leadership, sportsmanship, and proficiency in athletic pursuits,” according to the Pomona website.

A special committee composed of members of the Dean of Students Office determines a student to nominate for the awards and then consults with the Kappa Delta adviser and Pomona-Pitzer baseball coach Frank Pericolosi to award the prize.

There are currently plans to split the Kappa Delta gift by continuing to fund some award money while also allocating money for internships. As a result of the gift agreement, the winner of the Kappa Delta Award this coming year will receive less prize money than the $8,000 awarded last year.

“The alumni body actually approached the advancement office and asked if, because it has such a large balance, is there a way we could capitalize in regards to directing this toward more useful purpose at Pomona,” Schmitz said. “I think we formulated a gift agreement saying, ‘How about you guys continue funding, and we’ll direct this toward internships.’”

Awards granted to students also count as taxable income and must be reported.

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