By Jennifer Spencer
A 32-year partnership between Fordham University and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation has helped more than 500 older women finish their Fordham degrees.
Since 1982, the foundation has given more than $1 million in scholarship support to Fordham. The productive collaboration was the focus of an April 25 luncheon, “Empowering Women: Education and Beyond” that drew more than 75 people, including Newcombe scholars.
“It is because of the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation and its ability to foster the empowerment of women that I stand here today as living proof of what can be achieved,” said Latasha Douglas, PCS ’14, who graduated this month with a degree in social work. A single mother of two–one in college and one in high school–she thanked the foundation for being “a source of encouragement, vision, and financial support.”
Cira Vernazza, associate dean of the Fordham School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS), oversees the Newcombe Scholars program at Fordham. She said the scholarships typically serve women over the age of 25 who have completed approximately 60 credits or more towards their degree but, for either financial or family obligations, they had to put college on hold.
“Historically in American culture, women put themselves last in educational needs. To enable mature women to finish their degree is important, as these women serve as role models,” she said.
Gloria Jackson, 52, is a Newcombe scholar studying social work while employed full time at a social services agency in Connecticut. Family obligations prevented her from pursuing a college degree sooner.
Jackson, who is living with chronic lupus, said receiving the Newcombe Scholarship “made me see that I do have it in me to do this.”
Tom Wilfrid, executive director of the Newcombe Foundation, said the foundation joins with colleges and universities like Fordham not only because of their academic strength, but also for their commitment to supporting mature women students.
“Fordham’s location in New York City…makes it an excellent partner for carrying out the mission of this scholarship program,” Wilfrid said. He went on to single out three pioneering women who were instrumental in the success of the program: founding Newcombe executive director Janet Fearon; former faculty member Anne Imperio, and Vernazza.
Irma Watkins-Owens, Ph.D., associate professor of African and African-American studies and history, moderated a discussion that included University Trustee Betty Burns, FCLC ’83; Family Court Judge Marybeth Richroath, FCLC ’76, television producer Melissa Cornick, FCLC ’81; Glenice Raj, PCS ’14; and President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society Louise Mirrer.
Newcombe scholar Rachel Sattler, PCS ’14, didn’t begin her degree in biomedical engineering until age 29 after a career in professional dance. She will start a master’s/doctoral program at Columbia University in the fall.
“I’m going into a field where there aren’t a lot of women. Any time I have an opportunity to meet and hear from strong women in leadership positions, I value that,” she said.