Scholarly Success Story

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With unwavering support, the Chancellor’s Scholars Program reaches a quarter-century.

The first class of Chancellor’s Scholars, 1984.

The first class of Chancellor’s Scholars, 1984.

In 1984, a group of six students enrolled in a scholarship program designed to attract talented, underrepresented minority and culturally disadvantaged students to UW-Madison. Since that fall twenty-five years ago, the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program has produced 442 alumni, many of whom have gone on to pursue advanced degrees.

This October, past and present scholars, faculty and staff mentors, supporters, and friends celebrated the milestone with a day of reconnecting and remembering.

The program, which is funded entirely by private gifts, covers tuition and fees for all participating students. Chancellor’s Scholars, who come from all over the United States, are selected for their academic records, leadership skills, and sense of purpose.

“They generally graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes and participate in school and community organizations. As they become proud Badgers, they also grow as individuals and as cooperative and contributing members of the campus community,” says Mercile Lee, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs, who is the architect and guiding force behind the program. The graduation rate for Chancellor’s Scholars is more than 80 percent, slightly higher than the overall campus population.

Faculty and staff mentors play an important — and popular — role in the program by volunteering their time and knowledge to help each scholar participate fully in the Wisconsin experience.

Mai-Lan Huynh ’88, MD’98 was a member of the first class of Chancellor’s Scholars (far right in 1984 photo, at top) and is now a physician in Colorado, served as emcee  during an October event to mark the program’s twenty- fifth anniversary.  Photo: James Gill

Mai-Lan Huynh ’88, MD’98, a member of the first class of Chancellor’s Scholars (far right in 1984 photo, at top) and now a physician in Colorado, served as emcee during an October event to mark the program’s twenty- fifth anniversary. Photo: James Gill

Former UW chancellors, for whom the program is named, have provided institutional and personal support, and served as mentors:

  • Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain, along with the late Vice Chancellor Emeritus Bryant Kearl MS’42, provided initial funding, identified potential donors, and encouraged the support of the faculty and staff.
  • Interim Chancellor and Vice Chancellor Emeritus Bernard Cohen strengthened donor relations and launched a fundraising effort that endowed the Irving Shain Chancellor’s Scholarship.
  • Chancellor Donna Shalala enthusiastically embraced the program and hosted the first annual reception for mentors and scholars to recognize graduating seniors.
  • Chancellor David Ward MS’62, PhD’63 increased funding to add twenty-five new scholars annually and, by the program’s tenth anniversary, achieved a goal of having at least one hundred scholars on campus each year.
  • Chancellor John Wiley MS’65, PhD’68 expanded initiatives supported by his predecessors and provided resources to almost double the number of scholars.

Current Chancellor Biddy Martin PhD’85, who has made overall undergraduate accessibility and affordability a priority, is committed to creating a campus that celebrates diversity.

The Chancellor’s Scholars Program was able to reach a milestone anniversary, thanks to the private donors who have helped the scholars earn world-class educations, allowing bright young people to pursue unlimited possibilities and achieve ambitious goals.

Published in the Winter 2009 issue

Tags: Alumni, Students

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