Jumbo Support for Students

Financial aid challenge matches $8.5 million for endowed undergraduate scholarships.
Giuliana Perini

For Giuliana Perini, A21, scholarships catalyze dreams of becoming a surgeon.

From the day Giuliana Perini, A21, arrived at Tufts from Miami on a full scholarship, she has pursued her studies at full tilt. Now the double major in biology and sociology, whose parents emigrated from Colombia, has been accepted into a dual degree program—a combined bachelor of arts and a master’s in public health at the School of Medicine. 

Her long-term goal? “To become a surgeon,” she said, without missing a beat. “I’m incredibly grateful to Tufts, because with financial aid comes the peace of mind to make my next steps more accessible. Scholarships have been both the catalyst and the foundation for everything I want to do.”

Financial aid is now going to help even more students like Perini, thanks to the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering Scholarship Challenge, a matching gift campaign launched in 2019 by two couples who are both Tufts parents. They generously funded the $8.5 million challenge to inspire another $8.5 million in new gifts for endowed scholarships. Tufts celebrated reaching that goal in December.

Alumni, parents, trustees, and friends responded to the challenge, adding a total of $17 million to the endowment. The campaign inspired 117 donors to create 40 new scholarship funds and add to 29 existing scholarships. Another $3.3 million was raised for the annual fund, as part of the challenge requirements.

Behind the numbers are many personal alumni stories. Consider Inés Garcia, AG74, A08P, a native of Peru who earned a master’s in economics at Tufts. Those years at Tufts opened up a world of opportunity for Garcia and prepared her for a career at the World Bank.

“Tufts empowered me to think critically by working with dedicated faculty members committed to individualized student attention and fostering a pursuit of knowledge that remained with me throughout my career,” she said. “I gained not only technical knowledge but also the confidence I needed to apply to the bank. I was not only able to do well, but to also help my sister continue her studies. I will be forever grateful for my full scholarship.”

Garcia said the endowed scholarship she created as part of the challenge reflects her own gratitude and the values of her father. His death came too soon, and left her mother, a nurse, to raise three children on her own. But “he always said learning was a passport to a better life,” she said. “I can’t agree with him more.” She’s pleased to help generations of future undergraduates—especially first-generation college students—realize their potential.

John Nackel, A73, A03P, had less distance to travel to Tufts—he grew up one of six children in Medford—and he was able, through part-time work at the local hospital, to pay his way through four years of Tufts. The son of a metal worker, he was the first in his family to attend college, and his subsequent success in the health care industry, he said, is founded on his Tufts degree in mathematics. He went on to earn a doctorate in industrial engineering, a master’s degree in hospital administration, and a master’s degree in public health.

Nackel and his siblings benefited from higher education—“we have something like 14 or 15 degrees among us”—so he was inspired by the challenge to add funds to two scholarships he had already established, one in honor of his parents, Michael and Josephine Nackel, and a second, named for himself and his wife, that supports students who want to go into health care. He liked that his gift would go “so much farther” thanks to matching funds.

It’s heartwarming to receive thank-you letters from scholarship recipients and know that he has helped them graduate without “huge debt,” said Nackel, who now lives in California. “It makes me proud, and I am sure it would please my parents, who valued education so much.”

Financial aid allowed Jennifer Selendy, J90, to realize her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. “My father was a mill worker and my mother a teacher’s assistant in rural Maine and, while they aspired for my brother and me to attend college, they had no means to make it happen,” she said.

Like Nackel, Selendy was the first in her family to attend college. After graduating magna cum laude in international relations, she went on to Harvard Law School. Today she is a New York-based attorney whose many civic activities include co-founding a school for high-achieving elementary school children; she also co-chairs the advisory board for Tufts’ Institute for Global Leadership.

In response to the challenge, Selendy established a scholarship in honor of Richard Eichenberg, associate professor of political science, who helped her secure funding when she had to scramble for extra aid her junior year.
“I hope, in some small way, to open doors for students, to make their way a bit easier,” she said, “and to inspire them to give back to Tufts too.”


Helping Students and Families Hurt by the Pandemic

Tufts doubled down on its commitment to undergraduate financial aid amid the catastrophic economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. Many Tufts families were hard hit, with job losses and other unexpected setbacks driving a surge in emergency appeals for additional  financial aid. Through it all, the university’s promise to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need for all four years of college remained firm, thanks to the COVID-19 Undergraduate Financial Aid Match.

The initiative was launched last spring by Kathy Kwan, A22P, and her husband, Alan Eustace, A22P, with a gift of $1 million. (The couple also made a generous gift to support stipends for high-need students.) Their leadership attracted pledges from seven more couples, creating a challenge fund that eclipsed $2 million and kindled a strong response. More than 3,000 donors contributed gifts of all sizes online, successfully helping to close a nearly $5 million shortfall in financial aid.

“It’s been a year like no other,” said Patty Reilly, associate dean of financial aid. “We agreed from the get-go that we would be there for the students. We wanted to ensure they could continue their studies and that new students could still plan on attending.”

Thanks to generous donors, Reilly said, “One thing is clear: We’re all in this together. I am confident we will continue to do what’s right for our students.”