St. John Fisher receives $3 million in gifts

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Through the generosity of alumni, St. John Fisher College will be able to make education at the college accessible to more students as well as pursue innovative instructional approaches. 

The college has received a total of $3 million in gifts from former students and through a match from Wegmans Food Markets.

Early this month, the C. Anthony and Michele Davidson Foundation decided to endow a $1 million scholarship at the college offering financial assistance to Fisher undergraduates. The gift comes from the family foundation of Fisher alumnus and former trustee C. Anthony (John) Davidson.

“Fisher has meant a lot to me. My education has served me well, and as I look back at my life and career, the education I received at Fisher has been a tremendous asset for me,” Davidson says.

A retired Tyco executive, Davidson came to Rochester from Jamaica as a teen. Scholarships helped him attend college. Now, his family foundation has committed to supporting Black and Latinx graduates from Rochester high schools. The foundation offers assistance to four Fisher students each year through the Davidson Education Opportunity Bridge Scholarship Fund. The recent commitment will endow the scholarship.

John Davidson
(Photo courtesy of St. John Fisher College)

“Endowed scholarships, such as the Davidson Education Opportunity Bridge Scholarship Fund, allow us to invest in both current and future Fisher students,” says Gerard Rooney, president of the college. “We are most grateful to the Davidson family for their continuing transformational support of, and commitment to, making a Fisher education accessible to a greater number of students from the Rochester area.”

Scholarship recipients will get $20,000 each year—with the funding evenly split between the scholarship and the college. The scholarship is renewable for four years.

Davidson scholars also will be mentored individually by Fisher faculty and staff. Experience-based learning—up to $4,000—through an internship, for example, is also available to these scholars.

In September, Fisher announced the creation of the DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence. The center was made possible through a $1 million gift from Jack and Donna DePeters. Wegmans matched the gift, bringing it to $2 million. 

Jack DePeters earned his degree at Fisher and retired from Wegmans as senior vice president of operations after 52 years of service. The matching gift from Wegmans was made late last year in honor of his retirement.

Developing innovative teaching and learning activities on and off campus is central to the DePeters Family Center. Faculty will be able to experiment with new and flexible instructional approaches, Fisher officials say. Among the opportunities for faculty are access to tools and classroom spaces to maximize effectiveness in various teaching environments, professional development opportunities and workshops.  

“The establishment of this center will further our commitment to teaching and learning in a student-centered educational environment in state-of-the-market learning spaces that utilize the latest technology, design elements, and furnishings, and enable the transformation of all of our campus classrooms,” Rooney says. 

With a flexible layout, mobile technology and movable work areas, a model classroom at the center will experiment with active learning teaching strategies. It will enable Fisher to provide support for a range of pedagogical approaches and help faculty who are looking to enhance, expand, and transform what they do in the classroom, says Kevin Railey, provost.  

Jack and Donna DePeters, with St. John Fisher College President Gerard Rooney, at the 2019 Teddi Dance for Love. (Photo credit: St. John Fisher College)

For the DePeters, innovation in education is vital.

“The center is built around innovation. And that’s what we’re excited about. It’s important that Fisher continues to lead with innovation,” he says.

The challenges of 2020 make it an ideal time for a center with such goals, the donors believe.

“The timing is perfect for this. I really believe that the professors will be so enthralled with the center’s offerings,” Donna DePeters says. “They are already experts in their field, and now this affords them the opportunity to expand their teaching skills with support from both technology and classroom spaces that encourage high-quality teaching and student learning.”

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

Fisher, Keuka move to fully remote

A steady uptick in the number of COVID-19 infections on campus has prompted St. John Fisher College to switch to remote instruction for the rest of the fall semester.

The college late Tuesday said its most recent wastewater surveillance results show an increase in the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the residence halls. 

“While the number of confirmed cases does not meet the New York State threshold that would require us to take further action, we remain focused on the safety and well-being of our students, employees, and the surrounding community,” Fisher officials said.

Undergraduate classes are expected to resume online next week while graduate students will transition online tomorrow. Resident students were asked to move out as soon they are able and quarantine for two weeks when they return home.

For now, Fisher employees will continue working as before. The semester’s timeline remains on track.

In Yates County, Keuka College last week said it was temporarily closing the campus because of a cluster of coronavirus cases. Separating healthy students from quarantining populations had become difficult, President Amy Storey said in a statement.

On Oct. 15, the total number of cases at the college had topped 70. Though Keuka College had only a single positive case during the first six weeks of the semester, a public health investigation showed that an off-campus gathering on Oct. 3 triggered a latest cluster.

“We had hoped this step wouldn’t be necessary,” Storey said, “but the quickly escalating number of positive cases has made this temporary shutdown unavoidable.”

—Smriti Jacob

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