New CGS scholarship honors successful adults

Thanks to a generous grant from the family of a College of General Studies alumnus, successful adults from all walks of life now have the opportunity to get a Penn degree tuition-free.

The $336,000 grant from the family of James Murray Kay (CGS'55) will fund 10 full-tuition grants for adult part-time students seeking undergraduate degrees through CGS. Kay Scholarships will be awarded to students who have demonstrated at least five years of leadership experience in business, the professions, public service, non-profit organizations or their communities.

The first Kay Scholarship recipient, Beatrix Szepesi-Holland, exemplifies the type of achievement the scholarship was designed to honor.

The 41-year-old owner of a general painting contractor was the first journeywoman member of Painters Union Local 703 and the founder of what is now TOP/WIN Inc., a resource for women in non-traditional occupations. Holland also served as an observer in South Africa's first multiracial elections in 1992, and her experience there combined with her work in Philadelphia led to her being named to the Philadelphia delegation to the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum at the Fourth World Conference for Women, in Beijing in 1995.

The Kay Scholarship will allow Holland to take five courses a year until she completes her bachelor's degree. "When you're working as well as studying, that's about all you can do," she said at a news conference announcing the scholarship.

Holland's intellectual curiosity suggests that she could have done well in college as a traditional student, but as she had "immigrant parents who didn't understand the school system," she headed from high school directly into the workforce instead. After nearly two decades of work and service, she enrolled in Community College of Philadelphia as a part-time student, earning 46 credits before coming to Penn last month. This semester, she is taking courses in nonfiction writing and social history.

"I'm in class with traditional, younger college students as well as adults and I'm learning from them, as I assume they learn from me, things which only an adult can share. I have 20 years of work experience, but there's nothing like being in a classroom -- it's no fun learning by yourself," Holland said.

The Kay Scholarship program joins four other programs that provide financial assistance to CGS students: the Bread Upon the Waters Scholarships for women over 30, the Senior Associates Scholarships aimed at first-generation college students, the Dean's Scholarships for CCP graduates, and the Aronfreed Pre-Veterinary Scholarships. "Students do need to show financial need for these (five) scholarships," said Richard Hendrix, associate dean for continuing education in the School of Arts and Sciences, "but the criteria are looser than those for full-time undergraduates."

Hendrix said that CGS hopes to have a full complement of 10 Kay Scholars by the end of the year, with new awards made as current recipients graduate. Applications are now being accepted for the fall 1998 semester; the scholarship is open to students accepted into CGS baccalaureate programs. The application deadline is April 1. More information about CGS scholarships is available from Assistant Dean Karen Weidel at 573-7537.

Originally published on March 19, 1998