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Sondra Arnsdorf and her family spend time together in her Oakland, California, apartment in 1980. From left to right: Michelle Arnsdorf, Val E. Arnsdorf, Deloris Bauer Arnsdorf, Sondra J. Arnsdorf.
Sondra Arnsdorf and her family spend time together in her Oakland, California, apartment in 1980. From left to right: Michelle Arnsdorf, Val E. Arnsdorf, Deloris Bauer Arnsdorf, Sondra J. Arnsdorf.

Alumna Sondra Arnsdorf donates $3 million to UD

Photo courtesy of Sondra Arnsdorf

Hopes to help students to be teachers and explore opportunities

Raised in Minnesota and California, University of Delaware alumna Sondra J. Arnsdorf always looked up to her father, Val, who began his career as an elementary school teacher and retired as a professor of elementary education.  

While happily teaching elementary school, Val earned his doctorate from the University of Minnesota. In 1959, he joined the University of California’s faculty, and in 1964, he crossed the country with his family to become a member of UD’s faculty while Sondra enrolled as a student. During his tenure, he served as a professor and chairperson of the then-Department of Education, touching the lives of countless students through his work. Inspired by her father’s journey and well equipped from her UD education, Sondra followed in Val’s footsteps and became a teacher, too.

“My father influenced generations of students during his tenure at UD and during his time as a teacher,” said Sondra. “I wanted to become a teacher as well so I could help young people the way he did and encourage them to find their passions, learn to ask questions and love learning.”

When Val passed away in 2010, Sondra and her sister, Michelle, donated $1 million from his estate to establish the Dr. Val E. Arnsdorf and Deloris Bauer Arnsdorf Fellowship in memory of their parents. The fellowship provides financial aid to graduate students pursuing a degree in education. A few years later — wishing to further the impact of the fellowship — Sondra and Michelle increased that commitment to $2 million dollars.

“My sister and I wanted to mirror all that my father had done throughout his career,” Sondra said. “We wanted to help students become teachers. I hope recipients enter the teaching profession and not only find it rewarding, but also are able to encourage their students to see the world from different perspectives.”

Michelle passed away in 2014, and Sondra, knowing she wanted to honor her sister in a special way, contributed an additional $1 million to the fellowship they established together. It is Sondra’s sincere hope that this investment will provide additional aid to the area that her family held so dear: education.

Since 2010, Sondra has committed a total of $3 million to the fellowship, including this recent $1 million gift, which also furthers Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware.  

“Giving keeps the connection going,” she said. “One must always remember that even education is a gift.”

About the Delaware First Campaign

Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware was publicly launched on Nov. 10, 2017. The comprehensive engagement and fundraising campaign will unite Blue Hens across the nation to accelerate UD’s mission of cultivating tomorrow’s leaders, creating solutions to grand challenges, inspiring innovations and transforming lives. The united effort will help create an extraordinary student experience at UD and extend its impact on the region and the world.

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