Your Gifts Make Their Dreams Happen


Alan Scheff

Alan Scheff ’79, ’82
It’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of thing.

There is so much in the press now about college not being worth it or too expensive and unnecessary. I think the college experience is so much more.

When I graduated high school in 1975, I was a naïve, 17-year-old, sheltered kid from the suburbs. I had no idea what diversity meant. When I arrived at RIT for my freshman year, I was not sure what to expect. By the time I graduated, I learned what many college leaders say is true. I read an interview with the president of Harvard that sums it up well – college is not just about how to build a start-up, or a means to the end of supporting a family and leading a life “not dogged by financial uncertainty and stress.”

During my time at RIT, I kindled lasting relationships that I still have today.  In fact, my wife, Michele, and I had not seen each other in six years until I saw her one day outside the General Studies Building on campus. The rest is history. We grew to be well-educated and worldly individuals and we owe a lot of that to RIT. Not only did I learn about business and finance but I learned so much about other cultures and the diversity of the world.

Michele and I decided we wanted to give back to RIT to help aspiring young individuals that do not have the wherewithal to gain that incredible experience of “discovering new worlds and the value of deliberation” that the Harvard president talks about. We created a scholarship in the Saunders College that supports business students from the RIT/Rochester City Scholars program.

So the bottom line is that I have done extremely well in the finance industry and my gift both helps with personal financial goals and helps those less fortunate to get on this path. Like a pay it forward kind of thing.

– Alan K. Scheff, CEO of Scheff Thompson Cress Investment Group, LLC. and branch manager at RJFS

We will see problems from a new perspective

We will see problems from a new perspective
Greek Student Life Fund Supports Leadership Conference Attendance

Thanks to the many RIT Greek alumni who support the Greek Student Life Fund, Peter Ryan, Jr. '15 and Taylor Evans '16 were able to attend the 2013 Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute (UIFI), a national leadership conference for students in Greek organizations. The conference brings together Greek leaders from around the country for conversations and workshops on opportunities and challenges facing Greek organizations in the 21st Century.

"Sometimes when trying to solve problems or plan new events within our local Greek community, we are too narrow-minded and only look internally for answers," says Peter. "The conference introduced me to more than 80 individuals who are from different schools and organizations, but who largely share the same problems. Different exercises and conversations allowed us to share problems and solicit advice on how to address them from each other as well as fraternity and sorority life professionals."

An especially memorable experience was a discussion about the benefits and detractors of the Greek system. It was a frank and raw exercise that helped the students understand that Greek Life as a whole was in trouble due to some gravely serious transgressions committed by a small number of members. The group came to realize that as leaders on their campuses, the Greek Life students are responsible for leading their organizations in a better direction.

Both Peter and Taylor are grateful for the opportunity to have attended UIFI. Without the support from RIT's Greek Student Life Fund, they wouldn't have been able to attend. The experience will deeply enhance Peter's role as RIT's Student Government Greek Senator, and Taylor's role working on the Greek Programming Board.

Support the Greek Student Life Fund »

You can take a student around the world and back to RIT.

You can take a student around the world and back to RIT.

Study abroad is a critical component of developing "global intelligence," an increased comfort level with cultures in non-U.S. countries.

At RIT, when students go abroad, they take the opportunity to do more than be "tourists." They delve into cultures very different than their own, and often use that experience as a foundation for further study. Professor Roberley Bell's students spent 12 days in Dubai on a study abroad field research trip. When they returned, they turned their experiences into an exhibit.

The Constellation Brands Study Abroad fund was established to support RIT students choosing to study abroad or conduct research at any one of the RIT global campuses. Study abroad costs an average of $2,500 to $3,000 per student over and above the cost of tuition and is not covered by student grants and loans.

RIT's goal is to ensure a global experience for every undergraduate student. There is a significant need for support of the travel and living expenses associated with student study abroad. You can sponsor a student for a study abroad experience with a gift of $2,500 per year.

Watch the video about RIT students' trip to Dubai »

Alex Van Hook

Alex Van Hook '16
I will make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.

My passion for leadership is one of the reasons I had an internship in Washington, D.C. through the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), where I worked for a congresswoman. This experience changed my life. It taught me that I can do anything and make a difference in the lives of others.

As a scholarship recipient, I know how important our donors are to student success. Your annual support helps make an RIT education possible for thousands every day and increases the value of every RIT degree. After graduation, I plan to go to graduate school. My dream is to work with companies and other organizations to create more opportunities for people with disabilities.

Rochester City Scholars graduates its first class.

Rochester City Scholars graduates its first class.

When RIT announced a program offering full scholarships for Rochester City School District students in 2009, the goal was to launch the most capable students into careers they had always dreamed about.

Twenty-seven students from the district qualified for the scholarships for the 2010 academic year. Four years later, 21 are on track to graduate in May. They have aspirations to be lawyers, engineers and scientists - and those careers are within reach.

Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson '13, '15
I will reach the stars - or maybe send others to them.

My career goal is to be involved in developing software or hardware for the next generation of space systems. I have completed two co-ops working as a software engineer for a defense company, and I hope my next co-op is in developing hardware for space or satellite systems. Without the scholarship support I received, I would not have been able to attend RIT, and wouldn't have had the chance at such great co-op experiences.

When I graduate, I want to help bring about the next revolution in space technology. I want to experience what it would have been like to work during the space race of the 1960s. The world needs that big of challenge again, and I could see myself right in the middle of it.

Camila Gomez Serrano

Camila Gomez Serrano '16
I will make a difference - thanks to RIT donors.

Thanks to a scholarship, I am able to attend RIT. I have the opportunity to learn from amazing professors and this summer thanks to the Innovation Center, I was able to do research in the Mechanical Engineering Department. I am very grateful for all the opportunities of growth that RIT has offered me in just my first year. I cannot imagine myself being as successful and happy somewhere else!

Heather L. Schoenberger

Heather L. Schoenberger '04
I am helping others stay healthy, and helping RIT too!

I'm very grateful to the many donors to RIT's Alumni Legacy Scholarship. I received tuition support from that fund while attending RIT, which has a highly respected physician assistant degree program. I really wanted to attend RIT, and the scholarship made it much easier to complete my studies without worrying about huge student debt.

Today, I am loving my career as a physician assistant. Every day I help patients to get healthy and stay healthy, and they tell me how grateful they are for my help. As an alumnus I now give back to RIT to help pass on the same legacy to current students. Thanks, RIT alumni donors, for changing my life!

Kathleen Clas - Mom to Michael

Kathleen Clas - Mom to Michael '13 and Greg '13 Coady
My sons will meet challenges head on.

My sons graduated with a valuable RIT education, thanks to the generous support of scholarship donors. The cost of college was overwhelming, especially with two children in school at the same time. I'm twice as certain that every gift of support is important. I don't know how I would have covered two tuition bills, and the thought of the debt they would have taken on scared me even more. Because donors choose to support RIT's scholarship funds, they'll have what they need to succeed in a very challenging world, and be ready to meet those challenges with confidence instead of worry. Thank you, donors!

Joe Crespo

Joe Crespo '13
I will help people build new scholarship funds.

One day I want to own my own financial advising business. I'm very good with budgeting and keeping track of finances, so a career as a financial planner is my dream. To get that career off on the right foot, I'm looking forward to paying off my student loans within five years. After all, what good is it to be a financial advisor if I can't even forecast my own finances, let alone someone else's? Managing finances is an important skill, and I don't want to be in my late 20s or even 30s with my student loans holding me back. The scholarship support I've received is a big part of making that possible.

I am grateful for being able to attend RIT. When I graduate, I want to be living in a big city like Los Angeles or New York City or Boston – debt free, of course – and helping others to manage their financial futures so they can hopefully set up a scholarship fund like the one that helped me.

Faculty & Staff

Margaret Bailey

Margaret Bailey
I will change the face of engineering.

During my tenure as the Kate Gleason Endowed Professor, I was given the chance to change the face of engineering by increasing diversity in the field. Teaching and doing research are both full-time, demanding jobs. Through the support of an endowed professorship, generously donated by friends of RIT, I was able to spend some of my time recruiting and mentoring young female engineers. I helped them find their particular area of interest in the field, and encouraged them in a demanding course of study. I also helped direct the Women in Engineering program. WE@RIT is a supportive, inspiring place for future women engineers to prepare for leadership in the engineering field. Now, I am overseeing a multi-faceted program intended to enhance recruitment, retention and advancement opportunities for women faculty in STEM disciplines.

Without the support of generous donors to the professorship, to WE@RIT, and to other efforts to help women succeed in STEM fields, engineering classes at RIT might look very much like they did 30 years ago. The progress we've made has been valuable to the field of engineering and has helped to launch the dreams of hundreds of young women.

Dan Tessoni

Dan Tessoni
My students will keep American businesses strong.

Nothing is more gratifying than knowing that your former students think so highly of what you taught them that they establish scholarships in your name. I'm honored to have had two funds established by former students. I've taught every Executive MBA student at RIT, and two EMBA alumni, Jim Goff '91 and Kim Burkart '02, created an endowed scholarship for EMBA students to which many alumni have contributed. And Jim Salzano '87 established an endowed scholarship for accounting undergraduate students, hoping it would support student success and provide a vehicle for other Saunders College alumni to give back to the school. Since then, Saunders alumni like Ron Ricotta '79 have helped to build that scholarship and have increased the support it provides to students.

I have had an amazing career at RIT, and have been so honored to teach so many talented students. These scholarships are a wonderful legacy after 40 years of teaching.

Jim Winter

Jim Winter
A scholarship ensures that Jim Winter will continue to help students.

After decades of helping RIT students navigate the financial aid maze, Jim Winter was a legend in the RIT financial aid office. The stories of how he impacted students' lives flow from across the country - many alumni say they never would have been able to attend RIT if it weren't for the help Jim gave them to address tuition costs.

When Jim passed away unexpectedly, something else came from alumni - gifts to support the Jim Winter Scholarship at RIT. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were given to the fund to honor the man that so many students knew for his dedication in helping them come to RIT.


REDCOM Laboratories

REDCOM Laboratories
RIT alumni-owned company, REDCOM Laboratories, is helping to create a new, state-of-the-art conferencing facility in RIT's Saunders College of Business.

REDCOM Laboratories in Victor, NY is helping RIT's Saunders College of Business to create a much-needed 21st century conferencing facility in Lowenthal Hall. The REDCOM Global Telepresence Room, an advanced technology multipoint video and audio conferencing area, will be constructed in the new wing of the building and is a pivotal component of the new vision for the Saunders College laid out in the Saunders Challenge campaign. The new conferencing capabilities will enable Saunders College students, faculty, and administration to conduct coordinated global discussions with individuals in several locations that rival face-to-face meetings.

REDCOM has very strong RIT connections. Founder, CEO and chairman, Klaus Gueldenpfennig '74, '77, Vice President of Finance, Brigitte Gueldenpfennig '81; and Executive Vice President, Dinah Gueldenpfennig Weisberg '97, '03, all received their MBAs from the Saunders College. In addition, Klaus and Dinah have degrees from other RIT colleges, Klaus is a member of the RIT Board of Trustees, and Brigitte is a member of the Saunders College Dean's Advisory Council. The company employs many RIT co-ops and alumni in both technical and business fields.

REDCOM is a manufacturer of digital and IP-enabled telecommunications systems for carriers, utilities, emergency response and defense applications, and has been a long-standing supporter of RIT. The $250,000 gift from the company will fund the telecommunications-video communications room allowing RIT to tap connections to state-of-the-art web services and networks so that the Saunders College will be able to deliver conversations across the continents with every participant feeling as if they are in the same room. The room will consist of multiple plasma displays forming a video wall. Software will allow either the entire wall to be used as a single screen or to view multiple separate screens connected to several locations. Cameras in the room will focus on participants at each seat and transmit their voice and picture to other locations.

The Gueldenpfennigs made the decision to fund the room through their company in response to the Saunders Challenge. E. Philip Saunders, namesake for the Saunders College, created a $20,000,000 challenge to friends and alumni to help make the Saunders College become a center of entrepreneurship and innovation for the next generation of business leaders. Mr. Saunders' committed the first $5,000,000 as a 1:3 matching gift to help reach this goal. To date, the Challenge has received over $6,000,000 to be matched by Mr. Saunders.

For more information about the Saunders Challenge or to add your support, visit

RIT Centers of faith and culture being renovated

RIT Centers of faith and culture being renovated
Two facilities will receive needed design changes and upgrades in the coming year.

As noted in the Spring 2011 University Magazine, more than 1,000 students take part in faith observances or cultural/social activities offered by RIT's Center for Religious Life every weekend. Now, two centers of faith and campus culture are receiving much needed renovations in the coming year thanks to support from two Rochester-based foundations.

Schmitt Interfaith Center
The Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Interfaith Center at the heart of campus recently received a $300,000 grant from the Schmitt Foundation to kick off a major renovation plan. The money will be used for renovation of the Allen Chapel to provide new seating, lighting, and design elements to make the chapel practical for all faiths. The Schmitt Foundation grant will also provide funding to renovate the lobby to the Schmitt Center, creating a more welcoming first impression for students and visitors. Future plans include renovation of the smaller Jones Chapel, the lower level Skalny Room, foyer, and kitchen, addition of a canopy structure on the Quarter Mile entrance, and extensive exterior landscape design improvements for the south entrance to the Center. The Schmitt Interfaith Center was dedicated in 1985. This is the first significant renovation planned since the Center's opening. Additional renovations will be based on fundraising progress.

RIT Hillel
Over the past five years, Jewish life has grown significantly at RIT and RIT Hillel has become a recognized student organization. Committed to creating a pluralistic, welcoming, and inclusive environment for Jewish students, RIT Hillel has created a strong partnership with Hillel of Rochester to build a campus culture that is nurturing for Jewish students and their ability to incorporate Jewish tradition into their lives. Jewish

As a University priority, President Destler has committed to building a bridge between religious and intellectual life and a recent gift from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation will bring RIT closer to that goal. A $45,000 gift from the Farash Foundation is being used to expanded RIT Hillel's programs and renovate Hillel House on the RIT campus. Hillel House provides programming and meeting space on the residential side of campus for both hearing and deaf students. Renovation plans include updated lounge and kosher kitchen, new television that is closed captioning compatible, and other furnishings and updates to meet the needs of our Jewish community for a vibrant, inclusive space.

If you are interested in more information on either project or would like to support the Center for Religious Life's many programs, please contact us.