Destler and Johnson pledge $1M to City Scholars

Gift will ensure future of program created to provide scholarships to talented public school students with limited financial resources

A. Sue Weisler

The Rochester City Scholars program was launched in 2010 with these 27 students from the Rochester City School District.

A $1 million endowment gift to the Rochester City Scholars program means Rochester Institute of Technology will be able to help fund the education of deserving city public school students for years to come.

The gift was made by the program’s founders—RIT President Bill Destler and his spouse, Rebecca Johnson. Rochester City Scholars, launched in 2010, provides free tuition to the university for Rochester public school graduates who are admitted as freshmen to full-time study in baccalaureate programs at RIT, and meet income eligibility requirements.

“Lack of finances should not prevent a talented student from getting a college education,” Destler said. “We have been so impressed with the students who have come through the program so far that we wanted to ensure that future students had the same opportunities.”

Added Johnson, “Our City Scholars are a source of pride to RIT and to the entire community. The world needs the kind of talent and leadership that these students offer.”

Brian Hall, chairman of the RIT Board of Trustees, praised Destler and Johnson.

“Their leadership in creating and nurturing this program will have a lasting impact on the Rochester community,” Hall said. “From the students who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend RIT through the program, to their families and friends cheering on their successes; from the siblings who will aspire to follow the academic lead of their elders, to the countless community donors grateful for the opportunity to help, they have made their mark.”

Kevin McDonald, RIT vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion, said the City Scholars program has enriched the campus community through the addition of some of the city’s best and brightest students. The diversity that each student brings to campus enhances RIT’s living and learning environments, he said.

“The Rochester City Scholars program helps to create additional avenues of access for city public school students who wish to attend RIT,” McDonald said. “More importantly, RIT has established support mechanisms to help ensure that each City Scholar is provided with the academic and social connections necessary for academic achievement, persistence and graduation.”

“We are exceptionally grateful to President Destler and Rebecca Johnson for this generous gift on behalf of our children,” said Rochester City School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas. “The RIT community supports our district in many ways, but none are more important than helping Rochester students to attend and succeed in a world-class university. Thanks to this gift, future students will be assured that their dreams of attending a fine institution like RIT can become a reality.”

Since 2010, almost 100 students have participated in the program, which includes regular academic and personal support from the staff at RIT’s Multicultural Center for Academic Success. In May, the program’s first cohort of students graduated from RIT, and in August, a new class will enter. The program is funded through private donations and institutional support.

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