Surprise scholarship announcement at Musser Awards leaves tourism students speechless
Twenty Temple School of Tourism and Hospitality Management sophomores competing for a single $10,000 scholarship from an anonymous donor heard a series of stunning announcements Wednesday night.
Not only did Korman Communities founder Steven H. Korman reveal himself as the donor on the night he was honored with the prestigious Musser Award from the Fox School of Business, he also raised the amount to $12,000.
And then he awarded the scholarship — to all of them.
Korman’s $240,000 donation — in support of Temple’s recently announced five-year, $100 million fundraising campaign for student scholarships — capped a night emphasizing the university’s commitment to reducing student debt.
Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick J. O’Connor outlined the university’s unprecedented fundraising effort to more than double the current financial aid budget and stressed the importance of providing affordable access to excellence.
President-elect Neil Theobald then told the crowd of nearly 400 people, many of them business leaders in the Delaware Valley, that he “cannot wait to get here in January so we can work with all of you to build an even stronger business school and university that will continue to propel our regional economy.”
In his acceptance speech, Korman said he was attracted to support Temple because it takes raw talent and provides a chance to succeed. He has chaired the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Dean’s Council for 12 years.
Korman said each finalist was asked to submit a letter to their then-anonymous donor. Common themes were the students’ gratitude for their families’ sacrifices to help them attend college and a desire to give back to Temple.
He then read aloud the letter from Sara Sheedy, a Philadelphia native whose father passed away recently and whose family struggles both with their loss and with the financial burden of higher education. Instead of addressing the donor, she wrote to her dad.
“Through a generous donor, I’ve been nominated to receive a scholarship that would greatly help me continue my education,” the letter read. “You always told me never let any obstacle stand in the way of an education. Now, with this incredible development, I could continue my studies without worrying about how to pay for it.”
After reciting the letter, Korman said, “We’re lucky the next generation is going to be amazing. And all 20, when you think about it, are winners.”
He then turned to the students, gathered on stage in Mitten Hall, for the big reveal: “Did I say you were all winners? You’re all winners!”
After the announcement, Sheedy said “words can’t express how much this means to me and my family to not have to worry as much about how to afford college.”
Sean McGuire had a similar reaction.
“I just know what an honor it is to go here, and I also know how hard it is to go to any college with the cost of tuition, so I can’t even put into words what this means to me and my parents.”
For Gemma Duffy, the scholarship could allow her to pursue a dream of graduate school and give her family “peace of mind for the future.”
“It’s a really life-changing amount of money,” she said.
The Musser Awards, in its 16th year, is the Fox School’s highest honor for outstanding achievement, leadership and commitment to the community by a distinguished member of business. Event proceeds supported another scholarship: the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Endowed Scholarship Fund. The Fox School and School of Tourism are affiliated and overseen by Dean M. Moshe Porat.