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"You Don’t Have to be Bill Gates to do This"

Ruth Rovner
Ruth Rovner

Retired English professor Ruth Rovner may have left the classroom 11 years ago, but she has not stopped creating opportunities for students to learn.

Rovner, 75, a long-time contributor to the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation, set up and supports an annual scholarship for students who have overcome significant barriers, yet remained in Community College of Philadelphia to pursue their goals.

The Foundation is supported by many other caring faculty and staff members. She is but one of many current and former employees who contribute annually to the nonprofit that raises money to support the College’s programs and students.

An English instructor for 23 years, she began as a part-time instructor and eventually rose to the position of full-time assistant professor. After retiring, she decided she wanted to continue her involvement with the College and students. In 2009, she started the scholarship that now bears her name.

“Once I started this [the scholarship], I was reconnected to the College again in a much more vital way. I attended commencement and developed relationships with students,” says Rovner, who occasionally works as a freelance writer and is published in local newspapers.

Rovner personally reads each scholarship application, even though it is sometimes difficult to read through the compelling stories of heartbreak and challenge.

“In the first round of scholarship applications, I was planning to give two. Then we got the essays, and they were so amazing. So, I ended up funding five students instead of two. So far, I’ve supported 11 scholarships for nine students. This year, I attended commencement and watched two of my student scholars graduate, two of them with highest honors.” One of those students, Dawn-Stacey Joyner, won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania.

Rovner values her relationship with scholarship recipients. “One highlight is getting to meet the students personally after reading their essays,” she says. “It is especially rewarding to see how grateful they are and how the scholarship gives them extra motivation to feel deserving of the award.”

Anyone can fund a scholarship, Rovner says, and she encourages donors to give sooner rather than later. “You don’t have to be Bill Gates to do this. Don't wait until you die. Do this while you are still alive and see the impact of your giving,” she says.