My husband loved Columbia College, of which he was an alumnus.  About a year before his death, he endowed a scholarship to be given to an undergraduate who would use it to help pay the annual costs for tuition, room and board. The scholarship pays just a portion of those annual costs.  He lived to meet the first recipient.

In the 5 years since his death, I’ve had the opportunity to meet 3 other recipients, all of whom would have made their benefactor extremely proud of their intellectual curiosity, motivation and diligence.  I have been the beneficiary of their enormous gratitude.

The scholarship is in my husband’s name and every year, Columbia hosts a Dean’s Reception at which the benefactors of the scholarships, and the recipients, get together for dinner in one of the large auditoriums on the campus.  There are a few speeches after dinner given by several of the recipients.  Each year I am greatly moved to hear how these scholarships have enabled students, with limited economic means to attend Columbia, set their career sights much higher than they would otherwise have been able to do.  One graduating senior, two years ago, told how he and his family once lived in a box on the side of a highway in California.  He had been accepted to Columbia College, was able to attend because of the scholarship money he received, and was off to Johns Hopkins Medical School in the fall.

The recipients of my husband’s scholarship are no less deserving and certainly as accomplished.

I make a point to meet with the recipients during the academic year and, over coffee or an occasional dinner, tell them about who their benefactor was so that they can relate to a man instead of just to a name on a scholarship.

The most recent recipient gave me a beautiful card the last time I saw her after graduation and I know that my husband’s goodness and kindness are now part of who she is.

If possible, I would encourage anyone reading this to think about doing something similar to create a living memorial to someone you dearly loved.  Bricks and benches with names on them are nice, but people with pulses and dreams are nicer.