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Eckerd Alumni Surprise Professor Tom Oberhofer with Endowed Scholarship for Economics Students

posted on 05/21/2009

To recognize Professor of Economics Tom Oberhofer's May 31, 2009 retirement after a 35-year career at Eckerd College, alumni Scott Rivinius '88 and Julia Welch '94 desired more than a retirement party for their influential teacher, mentor and friend. "We wanted something to celebrate Tom's service and thank him, we wanted something that would remind Tom of Eckerd, but more importantly, remind Eckerd and its future students of Tom," said Scott and Julia.

The two alumni set out to create a legacy that would pay tribute to Professor Oberhofer's two greatest loves: his wife, Signe, and Economics. Their efforts, combined with those of 70 families from across the globe, resulted in the establishment of The Tom and Signe Oberhofer Endowed Scholarship for Economics Students. Gifts and pledges totaling $153,780 arrived from as far away as France and Hong Kong, from alumni of each decade of the College's existence. The first Oberhofer scholar will be named during the 2009-2010 academic year.

Inspired by the family of the late Jay Lukens '77 (an Economics major, mentee of Professor Oberhofer and former Eckerd Trustee), Scott, Julia and their spouses led an initiative that met a Lukens Family challenge to match dollar for dollar every gift received for the Oberhofer endowment up to a total of $50,000.

At the urging of Professor Oberhofer's students and graduates, his first mentee, Diana Fuguitt '76, Professor of Economics and Chair of the Behavioral Sciences collegium, ensured that he would be honored in a manner that went beyond the standard retirement party. The endowed scholarship and a list of contributors to date were shared with the Oberhofers at a celebratory gathering held on May 9 on Eckerd's campus. More than 60 alumni, current students and faculty were present, with some alumni traveling from as far as Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana, New York and Illinois.

Professor Oberhofer was flabbergasted by the announcement. "We were proud we could make our favorite teacher speechless as he always has something to say," said Scott.

Students Joana Cardao and Kari McNairJoana Cardao '08 and Kari McNair '09 presented the Oberhofers with scrapbooks filled with memories, reflections, thank you letters, favorite Professor Oberhofer stories, and hundreds of pictures.

Dean Lloyd ChapinIn closing the program, Lloyd W. Chapin, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, explained how an endowed scholarship is the greatest way to perpetuate the impact that a teacher has on former students, while helping to fund the next generation of scholars. "With the relationship between a faculty member and his/her students at the core of Eckerd's academic program, this gathering was an incredible statement of the impact someone like Professor Oberhofer could have on a community."

Professor Oberhofer's commitment to teaching and his students was reaffirmed during the 2009 Commencement ceremony when he was awarded The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award. From the award's citation:

For thirty-five years as mentor to Eckerd students, alumni, and professional colleagues;

For guiding generations of students in economics into rewarding careers;

For fostering an appreciation for the value of a liberal education by encouraging students to think beyond their major and to pursue study abroad;

For success in building your students' confidence by virtue of your skills as a sympathetic listener and wise counselor;

For combining high expectations and rigorous standards in the classroom with tremendous pride in your students' achievements;

For serving as a model of what it means to be a good college citizen;

And for exuding a philosophy that celebrates life, especially the life of a college professor, and deep affection for this campus community,

Eckerd College Presents The John Satterfield Outstanding Mentor Award to Tom Oberhofer, Professor of Economics.


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