A Powerful Network of Support

Holleran Scholars program opens doors for the next generation of leaders and philanthropists

By Sarah Burke

When a generous donor made it possible for T. Jerome “Jerry” Holleran (E 1957, TPR 1969) to attend Carnegie Mellon University, Jerry promised to help another student in the future.

Today, he has kept that promise hundreds of times over.

Carolyn and Jerry HolleranIn addition to directly supporting CMU students through scholarships and fellowships, Jerry and his wife, Carolyn, inspired 100 other supporters to join their efforts through special challenges in 2004 and 2011.

Aided by the Hollerans’ matching gifts, participating donors had the chance to establish their own personally meaningful endowed scholarship funds.

Collectively, this group of supporters has made a powerful impact. Their scholarships have brought a CMU education within reach for 413 “Holleran Scholars” — and counting.

Part of the Holleran Scholars program mission is to impart lessons about the value of philanthropy to scholarship recipients, encouraging them to make a difference at CMU and in the larger world in the future.

“For our young Holleran Scholars, we feel it is important for them to consider their scholarship support as a moral obligation, which they should pay forward in their life when they are in a position to do so,” Jerry said.

Opening Doors to CMU

Candace Matthews’ (E 1981) CMU experience motivated her to create opportunities for the students following in her footsteps — including those from underrepresented backgrounds. She created her endowed scholarship fund during the Hollerans’ first matching challenge in 2004.

“Carnegie Mellon enriched my life and prepared me for a future that I never realized I could have,” said Candace, a former CMU trustee. “If I hadn’t received my scholarships, I would not have been able to attend. I feel very strongly about making that opportunity available to someone else.”

When Candace’s niece, Stephanie M. Sheffield (E 2016), passed away shortly after graduating from CMU, Candace renamed the fund in her honor.

“I wanted her memory to live on forever,” Candace said. “She was so young, vibrant and hardworking, with so much to live for.”

Candace enjoys corresponding with her scholarship recipients — and finds it rewarding to see them carry on Stephanie’s legacy.

“I relish the opportunity to give students, especially young students of color, the chance to go to CMU,” Candace said.

“It warms my heart to see how excited they are about their plans for the future, how hard they’re working and how grateful they are to receive the scholarship.” Candace Matthews

Like Candace, TJ Escott (A 1962) is passionate about offering today’s Tartans a helping hand.

TJ and his wife, Paula, established the Escott Scholarship for CMU School of Drama students in 2004 as part of the Holleran Scholars program.

“The training and preparation I received in CMU’s drama program were useful in my business life as well,” said TJ, who began his career in acting and went on to own a prestigious talent agency.

Through their endowed scholarship, TJ and Paula are empowering the next generation of creative, talented students to reach their goals.

“My desire always has been to give back to CMU for the opportunities it afforded me in my professional and personal life,” TJ said. “The support we give to a deserving student, who might not otherwise be able to afford a CMU education, satisfies that desire.”

Sharing the Beauty of Giving

For Vicky Li, a CMU sophomore in business administration, support from the Holleran Scholars program created life-changing experiences — and introduced her to the power of philanthropy.

“I’ve learned that giving is a two-sided beauty that fulfills both the giver and the receiver,” Vicky said.

Each year, the Hollerans offer scholarship recipients a $5,000 grant to make a difference at CMU as a group. Together with her fellow scholarship recipients, Vicky had the chance to review project applications from campus organizations and choose where to direct the funds.

This spring, the group funded three critical initiatives to assist their fellow students impacted by the pandemic — the Tartan Emergency Support Fund, the CMU Pantry and Counseling and Psychological Services.

“To me, philanthropy means caring for others,” Vicky said.

“It’s important for students like me to work hard not only for our own future, but also for the hundreds of individuals whose lives we can change.” Vicky Li

That message continues to resonate with Holleran Scholars after graduation. Aashir Master (S 2018), a recent graduate in mathematical sciences, is still giving back to the area of CMU closest to his heart.

“My scholarship helped tip the scales financially to permit me to attend CMU,” Aashir said. “I was able to take advantage of opportunities from summer research programs to Global Medical Brigades.”

Through his giving, Aashir is making it possible for today’s Global Medical Brigades students to improve access to health care in underserved communities.

For Jerry and Carolyn, stories like Vicky’s and Aashir’s were exactly what they had in mind when they founded the Holleran Scholars program — CMU students committing their time, talent and resources to make a positive impact.

“We admire the zest and enthusiasm that these students have demonstrated in applying their intelligence and skills to the ever-changing problems in today’s world,” Jerry said.

Pictured above: Holleran Scholars gather for their annual Giveback Decision event, where they select important campus projects to support with a $5,000 grant from Jerry and Carolyn Holleran. Photo was taken prior to social distancing measures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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