Alumni revamp scholarship honoring founding faculty of the School of Film and Animation

The SOFA Founding Faculty Scholarship will support current and future students’ creative endeavors

Elizabeth Lamark

The School of Film and Animation Founding Faculty Scholarship can provide resources for students to pursue creative endeavors outside of the classroom, including independent projects and out-of-state internships.

Alumni from RIT’s School of Film and Animation (SOFA) are working together to fund a scholarship that honors all of the faculty who helped form the school. The SOFA Founding Faculty Scholarship will be available to students enrolled in programs within SOFA to support their creative endeavors outside of the classroom.

Scott Saldinger ’91 (film and animation: production), who describes himself as a hyper-engaged alumnus, recently committed to a gift that will endow the scholarship. He fondly recalls the connections he forged with students and faculty during his time at RIT, particularly the relationship with his former mentor Erik Timmerman, who taught the first animation course offered at the university.

Saldinger, from Dallas, explained that there was formerly a scholarship created in Timmerman’s memory, but it was not endowed and, therefore, had a limit on how many students it could support. He was determined to revamp the scholarship with the help of his fellow alumni to expand its impact in honor of Timmerman and the other faculty who helped shape SOFA into the successful school it is today.

“I want to see our network of alums come back together to do something collectively for a greater cause and a greater good. If there were things that weren’t available to help us become successful for whatever reason—whether we didn’t have the technology or we didn’t have access to people—we can help provide that for current students. We can give a student the ability to go on an internship outside of Rochester or help out if they need funds for a project,” said Saldinger.

Saldinger recruited Russ Lunn ’83 (photographic illustration, independent study in film and video), Tracy Moran ’91 (film and animation: production, writing and directing, animation), and Malcolm Spaull ’79 MFA (fine arts) to assist in gathering more support for the scholarship.

Spaull, professor emeritus and director emeritus of SOFA, hopes that the new scholarship can help remove financial barriers that may hold talented students back from succeeding in the field.

“Our particular discipline is expensive. From paying for recording materials to paying actors, to paying for food for the crew, there are a lot of auxiliary expenses, and you don’t have to look any farther than Hollywood to understand how crazy they can get,” said Spaull. “Students have a hard enough time as it is, so the scholarship will give them the resources and support they need to create and share their work.”

Lunn, an artist, media educator, and digital archivist, was one of Saldinger’s professors at RIT. With experience both as an RIT student and RIT faculty, supporting the scholarship was an obvious choice for Lunn.

“Helping those students who are talented but need support to engage in a very expensive field of study can help even the playing field,” said Lunn. “Our hope is that the scholarship will help students by giving them resources that enable them to have an active role in RIT’s leading college of digital image making.”

Success in the film industry requires more than financial resources and raw talent, according to Moran, who has an established career as a production freelancer in Rochester. Moran shared that being a successful filmmaker requires a lot of collaboration and networking, two things that she hopes RIT students can also gain through the scholarship.

“This industry is all about connections, and forming connections is at core of this scholarship, in my opinion. The more exposure our students have with our program’s alumni, the more likely they’ll meet someone who can connect them with a unique project or internship, or point them in the direction of other resources they need. Beyond contributing financially, this scholarship can show a student that there are people pulling for them in this industry,” said Moran.

The SOFA Founding Faculty Scholarship is part of Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness—RIT’s $1 billion university fundraising effort. The blended campaign has received support from a variety of investors, including alumni and friends, government and corporate partners, and research foundations and agencies.

For those interested in supporting the SOFA Founding Faculty Scholarship, email James Marotto at or make a gift online.

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