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October 31, 2006


Gift of $1 million donated by Board of Overseers Chair Emily H. Fisher will expand study abroad for students with limited means

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA — Simon's Rock College of Bard announces the creation of the Rodney Christopher Scholarship Fund. The fund was established to encourage students, regardless of economic means, to take advantage of study abroad, study away, or other college sponsored programs off campus.

This fund, established by Chairman of the Board of Overseers Emily H. Fisher, with a gift of $1 million, will give students scholarships for study abroad and study away opportunities. The fund is named in honor of the alumnus who first discussed with Fisher his concern that students without economic means – students on scholarships and financial aide – might be excluded from the study abroad opportunities such as the new Lincoln College, Oxford University program. To remedy that situation, Emily H. Fisher announced that she would endow a scholarship expressly for that purpose, and she named it to honor that alumnus who discussed it with her, Rodney Christopher.

"In my family, education was absolutely the most important thing; that and a spiritual life," she said. Of this gift, Fisher added: "It's a piece of philanthropy that I am more proud of than anything I've ever done, because I thought of it. It wasn't presented as part of someone's strategic plan. This was my idea."

How the Rodney Christopher Scholarship Fund was created

Emily H. Fisher recalls when alumnus Rodney Christopher, at a Board of Overseers strategic planning meeting to which alumni were invited, first mentioned his concern about excluding students of moderate means. He told the group that he was concerned that study away programs might "exclude a whole tier of students," those whose scholarships wouldn't follow them abroad. "I was a minister's daughter," said Fisher. "It really made an impression on me."

The next time she saw Christopher, this time at an Alumni Leadership Council meeting held at her home, she resumed the conversation. After the meeting, having given considerable thought as to how she could make the best impact, she said that she wanted to endow a scholarship and that she wanted to endow it in Christopher's name.

Christopher, who was a W.E.B. DuBois Scholar at Simon's Rock in the late 1980's and was raised in part on welfare, said: "I came from modest means, but I came from a mom who always made me feel I could do anything." He recalls how important a study abroad experience in Mexico was to him, and that he was only able to do it because of another act of generosity. In that case, a fellow Simon's Rock student's 13-year old brother, upon learning that Christopher couldn't go on a Mexico semester because of lack of money, asked his parents to donate his own birthday present toward Christopher's trip.

Emily Fisher, grew up in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, a minister's daughter, and she attended Quaker schools. She was a scholarship student at Vassar College, and she said she always felt very lucky: "I always had this sense that you can never really pay back the people, but you can pay back for the next generation."

Emily Fisher is Chairman of the Board of Overseers at Simon's Rock. Her financial and personal support of both the physical growth and the educational mission of Simon's Rock have been an essential element in its success.

Rodney Christopher, who graduated from Simon's Rock in 1990, holds a Masters Degree in Urban Policy from the New School in New York City. Currently, he is the Vice President of the Nonprofit Finance Fund in New York City.

Mary B. Marcy, Simon's Rock College Provost said: "Emily's leadership of our Board of Overseers and her commitment to what is good for Simon's Rock are invaluable. And that Rodney, a talented and engaged alumnus, inspired this gift makes it an even more exciting moment for Simon's Rock."

Simon's Rock Media Contact:
Briee Della Rocca: 413 644-4706