Jeff Petherick, a second-generation alum of Albion College from the Class of 1985, believes that it is important to give back to those who helped him get to where he is today. This is part of the reason why his family has contributed to the construction of the Walk of Scholars currently being built between the Honors Observatory and the library, in addition to his family setting up scholarships for Albion students.
“My father and mother left a great legacy to our family. They’re very generous, humble people,” said Petherick.
His parents graduated from Albion College in the Class of 1959, and his son Chad graduated in 2010. All three generations have contributed to the Walk of Scholars.
Jeff lives in Shelby Township, Michigan, and has been on the Board of Trustees for 12 years, but he plans to still stick around when his term expires this year.
The Walk of Scholars is being designed to have a dual purpose. Students will be able to use it for small group meetings and outdoor studying, but they will also be able to turn around and read plaques with the names of donors and endowed professors. The structure will hold seating for up to 15 students. At night, the structure will be lit up for students. During commencement and matriculation ceremonies, students will be able to pass through the Walk of Scholars and see the names of donors who have made their experience possible.
The design will fit with the traditional brick tones of other buildings on the Quad. The open, circular walls on each side of the Walk will be three feet high, with the top, rounded edges of the walls angled so that students can read the plaques as they move through it. Students will also be able to plug in their devices to power outlets installed in the wall.
The college hopes to have the construction complete by the time students return from Winter break.
Petherick’s family grew up in a small town, and his father went on to work for Goldman Sachs, but Jeff believes that his father never forgot where he came from.
“If my dad hadn’t gone to Albion, I’m not sure I would have looked at Albion,” said Petherick. At the last minute, I came up to Albion with some friends, and the second I stepped on campus I knew this was where I wanted to go.”
It was apparent in Jeff’s voice how passionate he was about Albion College.
“There’s three generations of Pethericks who have come to Albion College and had a phenomenal experience,” he said. “We all really credit our education for the success we had afterwards. So the Walk of Scholars was a great way to acknowledge my mother and father’s legacy. I think what’s neat about this is that […] students will walk through [the Walk of Scholars] on their first and last academic experience on campus. They’ll be able to see that whole legacy of people who came before them who are making that opportunity for students to come to Albion College. The hope is that these students will also become lifelong givers […] The joy to me is getting the opportunity to see the benefit of your gifts.”
Kim Arndts, the Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship on campus, graduated from Albion College in 1984. She is in charge of publicly recognizing Albion College’s donors so that students on campus know how donors have helped an education from Albion College. As she talked to me, students filed into her office to sign thank you letters to scholarship donors, exchanging their signatures for candy.
“I fondly remember walking across the Quad on commencement with all the pomp and pageantry,” said Arndts. “One of the things I wanted to recognize is the donors who have helped establish those transformational scholarships and our endowed professors.”
With this new construction, Arndts wanted to find a place on campus where students would be able to see those donors, and thought of the Quad.
“This is a great place for donors to be recognized for their contribution to Albion because this is the heart of campus,” she said.
Arndts explained that the plaques on the walls will feature the names of alumni who have contributed “transformational scholarships” to Albion College, which consist of the largest scholarships given to Albion, as well as the names of 10 endowed professors. The more endowed professors an institute has, the more prestige it has, according to Arndts.
“The May of 2018 commencement will be the first group to walk through it. You’re walking through on the shoulders of those who came before you,” said Arndts. “The vendor we’re working with thinks that donor recognition is very important. To their knowledge, this construction is the first of its kind where we can merge study space and donor recognition into one space. We’re hoping that students will find this to be a welcoming place.”