Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Celebration of Scholarship
Clayton Hall
April 7, 2011

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It’s my privilege to welcome you to the University’s 3rd annual Celebration of Scholarship dinner. I’m thrilled to see so many students here tonight—students who’ve come to express their gratitude. This is the time and the place to do it: This dinner brings together UD’s scholars and the people who make their studies possible. And so tonight isn’t just a celebration of scholarship; it’s a “celebration of patronage.”

Throughout history, patronage has given many of our great thinkers the time and resources to think. It’s given our great artists the time and resources to create. It’s allowed inventors to invent and adventurers to discover. But throughout history, there also has existed a close connection between patrons and those they chose to support. There was a relationship there that sustained both the scholar and the work. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that’s a tradition worth saving.

And so that’s why we’re here tonight—to build a connection between scholar and patron, one I hope is sustained past graduation. Because this isn’t a relationship or a story that ends at Commencement; the story has barely begun. The true yield of your generosity is what these scholars go on to do with the education you helped make possible.

And so I say to all the students in this room: Your patron deserves to know your full story. Start it tonight, over dinner. Share your work and your plans, what you’ve already experienced and what you hope to. Let them know who and what they’re supporting, and where their investment will have an impact.

To the students who don’t have their patrons here: Take the time to find out who they are; drop them a note; share your story and your thanks.

To all our scholars: Let the gift you’ve been given instill in you an obligation to use it well—to be successful, to be a leader, to give back, and to serve. Let it inspire in you a desire to perpetuate this ethic of patronage—to be a mentor or a benefactor to someone else.

Scholarship that changes the world is seldom the work of scholars alone. It’s the work of a whole community that invests in ideas and underwrites their development. It’s a powerful community, and I see its enormous strength in this room this evening.


Tonight, we begin a new tradition at this Celebration of Scholarship dinner. With the President’s Award for Philanthropic Commitment, we will recognize a donor or donor family whose scholarship support has had a significant impact on the University and its undergraduates.

Recipients will be chosen based on their leadership, their commitment to the University, and their dedication to supporting a diverse and stimulating undergraduate environment. It’s a tribute to our patron community, whose spirit and generosity allow students to pursue their dreams and be confident of success.

Our first-ever recipient is someone I imagine many of you would have chosen yourselves.

There is no one who defined the role of “public servant” like Muriel Gilman did. As the News Journal noted upon her passing, she worked her entire life for two goals: equal treatment and a fair quality of life for all. Those goals took her to top non-profit executive positions, and to leadership posts on countless community boards, coalitions, and associations.

Mrs. Gilman was a force in Delaware’s volunteer and political circles, where her opinion was sought out and her advice unfailingly followed. There is scarcely a service organization or agency that hasn’t been influenced by her legendary knowledge, drive, and commitment.

We are fortunate that the University of Delaware was a priority for Mrs. Gilman and her late husband, Marvin, a trustee and professor emeritus. They embraced the mission of the University and truly understood power and significance of higher education. They established three scholarships to ensure that students would have access to academic opportunities for generations to come: The Muriel E. Gilman Scholarship is awarded to returning students majoring in Nursing; the Marvin S. Gilman Scholarship supports a scholar in the School of Public Policy and Administration; and the Milton and Mary Edelstein Scholarship for Public and Community Service goes to a student in the School of Public Policy and Administration who demonstrates a commitment to community and public service. 

Muriel Gilman’s legacy lives on at UD. It’s renewed every time a student is awarded a scholarship that she and her husband endowed. What a wonderful example of the power of patronage.

Mrs. Gilman’s daughter, Martha Gilman, will accept the President’s Award for Philanthropic Commitment on her mother’s behalf. Please help me welcome her.


Several times a week, I hear from students and parents who are struggling. This recession isn’t over—not for the families whose jobs are still in jeopardy, whose bills are piling up. These scholarships are a lifeline to many—to parents who need help getting their children through college; to students who’d like to hold down fewer jobs while going to school. Endowing and awarding these scholarships is one of the best things we do as a community.

But the scholarships don’t only alleviate financial stress; they also open up an incredible number of opportunities—research, internships, networking, study-abroad—the very things that get students started on successful, fulfilling careers.

So now we’re going to hear from a student who’s benefited from the generosity of our patron community. Rachel McCulley is a member of the Class of 2010. She actually graduated early, so congratulations, Rachel! Rachel held the Swank Human Services Disabilities Scholarship, endowed by the Howard W. Swank, Alma K. Swank, and Richard Kemper Swank Foundation. The merit-based scholarship was created to promote excellence in disability-related services in Delaware.

It has rigorous academic, service, and research components, and recipients are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical behavior in their work. The Swank Scholarship prepares students to be strong advocates for human services and leaders in the field, serving Delaware and the nation. Rachel’s already fulfilling this mission, and I’ll let her tell you about it now.


Thank you for helping us celebrate scholarship tonight. I thank the incomparable UD Quartet for providing tonight’s music: Rob Haislip on drums; Yael Hernandez on piano; Sam Nobles on bass; and Nick Kalman on saxophone.

Thank you again and have a wonderful evening.

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