Karen Lafferty Hendricks

Alpha Gamma, Ohio State

The Founders Memorial Scholarship Fund: Making a Difference for 46 Years

In 1964, Theta Foundation trustees outlined an ambitious six-year fundraising plan to raise $100,000 to establish the Founders Memorial Scholarship Fund for undergraduate study to honor Theta’s four founders. Consisting primarily of annual membership contributions, the Fund awarded the first $1,000 Founders Memorial Scholarships to four outstanding undergraduate Thetas at the Centennial Grand Convention in 1970. That same year, Theta Foundation awarded six graduate scholarships and two fellowships, totaling $6,700 in graduate support.

Since then, Theta Foundation’s flagship scholarship program has grown significantly. In 2016, Theta Foundation awarded more than $684,000 to 275 undergraduate and graduate members. The Founders Memorial Scholarships have become the centerpiece of this program and are the true embodiment of our mission to help members reach their fullest potential and make a difference in the world. Through much-needed and well-deserved support, the Founders Memorial Scholarships have provided 188 women with the opportunity to focus on the academic pursuits that will prepare them for a lifetime of positive impact in the world.

Through our new Founders Memorial Blog Series, we will be featuring four of these outstanding Thetas. Today, Karen Lafferty Hendricks, Alpha Gamma/Ohio State, shares her experience as the first Alice Allen Brant Founders Memorial Scholarship recipient and how this scholarship helped her succeed academically and professionally.

The First Alice Allen Brant Scholarship: “It truly made a difference.”

Karen Lafferty Hendricks

Having switched majors from chemistry education to chemical engineering my junior year of college, I was facing another two and a half years of coursework, since Chem E was a five-year program. My college savings were depleted. To finish even in two and a half years, I planned 18-20 hours of coursework per quarter, which restricted my usual 20-hour work week. What was I going to do financially? I felt panicked at the time and out of options.

And then I received the Alice Allen Brant scholarship! I recall it vividly because I had never heard of this scholarship when I received a telegram (yes, a telegram!) informing me that I had been selected. My Theta roommate, then vice president of our chapter when I was president, authored the application to recommend me for this honor. It truly made a difference at the time and provided me the lift I needed to push through to graduation.

This scholarship allowed me to focus on the demands of the chemical engineering curriculum rather than being forced to work during my last two years of school, and enabled me to continue my extracurricular leadership roles on campus. Together, good grades and a proven track record of leadership on campus were critical in landing my first job at Procter & Gamble. That job was the launching pad for a very satisfying professional career.

As chapter president, I learned the kind of leadership needed to motivate peers and friends to strive for bigger achievements. I remember proudly receiving a “most improved” award for our chapter from Theta Headquarters during my presidency. This was a useful lesson in motivating a team, a department, and, later, a company to achieve big, bodacious goals.

During this time, I also oversaw the only student administered scholarship fund at Ohio State. Learning how to assess applications and bring a team to consensus on a decision to award a scholarship was a useful skill I called upon later in hiring and skills assessment of employees.

The Alice Allen Brant Scholarship represented a turning point for me and validation of my goals and self-worth at a time when few women were entering male-dominated careers like engineering. It made all the difference at a critical juncture in my life and allowed me to stay on course and ultimately achieve my professional goals.