Alumnus gives gift to Poly students

$5 million dedicated for Hopkins scholarships

Award to help 3 seniors a year

University applauds boost to its diversity efforts

February 14, 2005|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,SUN STAFF

A $5 million gift from a Baltimore contractor will provide full scholarships for three Polytechnic Institute students a year, for 25 years, to attend the Johns Hopkins University.

Johns Hopkins officials plan to announce today Willard Hackerman's gift to the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering to establish the Hackerman Polytechnic Scholarships. Poly seniors interested in engineering degrees will be eligible to apply for the awards, which will cover four years of undergraduate tuition.

Knowing that in every Poly class of about 300 students, at least three of them won't have to worry about burdensome college loans is a relief, said Principal Barney J. Wilson. Tuition this year at Hopkins is $30,140.

Last year, the university announced its Baltimore Scholars program, intended to provide free tuition to all city high school graduates admitted to Johns Hopkins. But Hackerman's gift ensures scholarship for Poly students for years to come.

"We have a guarantee of at least three," Wilson said. "There's nothing like having that comfort level."

Hackerman, who could not be reached for comment, graduated from the demanding math, science and engineering-focused high school in 1935. In 1938, he graduated from the engineering school at Hopkins. Hackerman is president and chief executive officer of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

"When you talk to him, he makes it very clear that he owes Poly a lot," Wilson said. "Poly provides one thing ... and that's hope. That's what Mr. Hackerman received when he was here. And a tremendous education. Together those things boost self-esteem and allows you to do well in life.

"He's like a lot of Poly grads. ... They know it was Poly that made the difference, and they're now in a position to come back and say thank you."

As top universities across the country strive for talented and racially diverse student populations, Poly is in a favorable position, Wilson said.

With a student body that is drawn from across Baltimore City and is 75 percent black, Poly has recruiters practically banging the school's doors down on college night, Wilson said.

"The best schools are asking, `Where can I get these students to come to my school - students who are prepared?'" Wilson said. "Poly's unique niche makes us valuable."

Johns Hopkins wants to lure those students just as much as any other university, said Nick Jones, dean of the engineering school.

"We are a better engineering program by having an inclusive environment and a diverse environment," Jones said. "If we can recruit terrific students from Baltimore schools, we will go a long way to creating that environment."

The Hackerman award solidifies the financial aid pipeline helping Poly students enroll at Hopkins. Four Poly seniors have secured awards under the Baltimore Scholars program. The university designed that program to diversify its student body with more public school graduates and minorities, and students from lower-income families.

Towson University also recently announced automatic admission and at least a $4,000 scholarship to Baltimore public school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.

Jones said that Hackerman's gift will help Hopkins compete for the best students. Although Hopkins and Polytechnic have historically had a very strong relationship, in recent years, he said, fewer graduates have headed to their home-town university.

In an undergraduate class of approximately 4,200 students, three to five of them come from the city a year, Jones said, adding that "it's clearly important for us to play more of a role in this area."

"I think [Hackerman] believes that [recruiting Baltimore scholars] is something we should support and embrace and try to get back."

Hackerman was at the center of a controversy last year regarding the planned sale of protected forest land in Southern Maryland. He subsequently withdrew from the deal.

Hackerman and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman, have donated millions to Hopkins, including $6 million to create a pavilion at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, where families of cancer patients can stay during treatments. They also gave $5 million for labs in the Bunting Blaustein Cancer Research Building.

Hopkins officials say Hackerman's influence also played a role in the naming of the engineering school for his employer and mentor, G.W.C. Whiting.

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