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Faculty, staff give back to UB

Deborah Bertlesman and Catherine Cornbleth

Catherine Cornbleth (right) established the Next Generation scholarship to help ease the demanding work schedules of nontraditional students. With Cornbleth is Deborah Bertlesman, a recipient of the scholarship. Photo: DOUGLAS LEVERE

By MARY COCHRANE

Published February 28, 2013

“My scholarship was truly a ticket to another world.”
Laura Barnum, Senior Associate Vice Provost, Office of Academic Planning and Budget

As a former dean and department chair, Mark Karwan gives to UB because he knows firsthand how valuable private philanthropy is to UB’s schools and departments.

Eric Stimson, who has spent more than 15 years at UB—first as a student and then as an employee—says he gives back out of gratitude: “It only seems right to give back to the university that has provided so much for me.”

Laura Barnum, a senior associate vice provost, gives because she wants UB students to have the same kind of opportunity that she received from an athletic scholarship.  

And Catherine Cornbleth, professor emeritus, gave in hopes of easing the demanding work schedules of nontraditional students.

Given that the number of full-time equivalent employees at the university is now approaching 7,000, there are at least that many reasons that faculty and staff members give to UB.

With more than 1,600 full-time faculty and more than 5,000 full-time staff members, that’s a lot of motivation—all of which adds up to one important impetus: supporting higher education and its power to transform our world, right here where we work.

President Satish K. Tripathi has made a point of talking about the importance of philanthropy in helping the university succeed. When he took office in 2012, Tripathi spoke about the changing financial landscape at state universities like UB, where, “in the 1980s, New York provided about 90 percent of our budget.”

“UB is now ‘state-assisted,’ with less than one-third of its budget provided by New York State,” Tripathi said, adding that he would encourage the use of private philanthropy “to pursue goals not achievable through current funding mechanisms” and to increase the UB endowment to generate more spendable income.

Karwan, who served as dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from 1994 to 2006, agrees about the effectiveness of private philanthropy in providing flexibility to universities.

Now the Praxair Professor in Operations Research, a position supported by this regional corporation in the engineering school, and a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, Karwan says all large universities like UB are dependent on philanthropy “as a significant component of their all-source funding.”

“It’s easy to see that philanthropy can provide the margin of excellence we all see in our university,” he says. “My wife and I give to the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, my home department, with the gifts to be used at the discretion of the chair. As a former chair and dean, I recognize that flexible funds to be used where they are most needed are very much appreciated.”

 During his 36 years at UB, Karwan also has seen how private giving helps the university attract—and keep—the best students.

“Students benefit from well-supported and well-run departments,” he says. “These resources are used to keep our engineering laboratories up to date, to provide scholarships and to further develop faculty skills through continued education, helping them to attend conferences and purchase educational and research materials.”

Karwan is one of the many faculty and staff members giving to UB who themselves received scholarships and financial awards that helped them attend college.

Another is Stimson, a systems analyst for the School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP).

“I was a student athlete in swimming,” says Stimson, a 2001 UB graduate who was hired by the university that same year.

Stimson gives in order to provide “extra opportunities and scholarships” to UB students. He first worked in the Center for Research and Education in Special Environments, “where I was part of unique research, publications, a patent and numerous graduate student projects.”

And although he now works in IT for SPHHP, it is a job with a “main goal of providing better opportunities for students.”

“I think seeing growth in students and the success that so many are having is the highlight—and the purpose,” Stimson says.

Barnum also received an athletic scholarship to play volleyball while attending UB. She now works in the Office of Academic Planning and Budget, and, like Stimson, gives to UB so students will “have the same opportunities which I have truly benefited from.”

“My scholarship was truly a ticket to another world,” Barnum says. “I grew up in a working class family of 10. I knew at an early age that education was important to my future and I was blessed to receive both an athletic scholarship from UB and a scholarship from Goulds Pumps, where my stepfather worked. Without these scholarships, I would not have been able to attend UB, nor would I be where I am today.”

Barnum credits UB with preparing her to receive a graduate assistantship to coach volleyball and earn her first master’s degree. She later completed an MBA at UB.

“It all started because my volleyball coach, Bob Maxwell, saw something in me and invested in my future, and for that I will forever be thankful,” she says “What I hope my gift does in some small way is contribute toward helping future UB students gain access to an excellent education at UB.”

Cornbleth, who recently retired after 26 years in the Graduate School of Education, looked at the milestone as an opportunity to honor her deceased parents and younger sister by establishing a scholarship in their names. She already knew the group of students the scholarship would help: nontraditional students in the school’s adolescence/secondary initial teacher-certification program. 

Working with the Office of Gift Planning, she established the Next Generation Scholarship in memory of Florence, Jack and Carol Kornblith; the scholarship has had three recipients since 2011.

Cornbleth was inspired to create the scholarship after watching many of her students struggle during their final semester in the program, the period when they are required to complete their full-time student teaching in area schools. A number of them were the first in their families to attend college, and worked full time and raised a family while earning their UB degrees. 

“Their last-semester schedule is demanding, making it difficult for those who have to work,” she says. “This scholarship provides these students enough money to get by; it’s not luxury, but it’s enough to live on while they complete their studies.”

The most important element of faculty and staff giving is to participate, Stimson adds, even if you can’t afford to give a lot.

“You don’t have to give a lot to make a difference,” he says.

Faculty and staff who would like to make a gift to UB can visit the Giving to UB website.