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The Yale Club of Bristol Scholarship Fund Turns 50

An education at a private college is an expensive proposition. For example, the price tag these days for a year’s tuition at Yale exceeds $27,000. Add to that another $10,000 for room and board, books, and other living expenses, and for high school students in a small town like Bristol, Connecticut, many of whom come from middle-income or blue-collar families, the cost may seem so daunting that they simply won’t apply to Yale.

Of course, Yale’s commitment to meeting the full financial need of every admitted student makes an enormous difference in both these perceptions and the financial realities for families. The average financial-aid package of grants and loans for a Yale undergraduate with financial need is over $18,000. As with many Yale Clubs across the country and many individual scholarship donors, Yale’s loyal alumni in Bristol, Connecticut, support Yale’s commitment to meet the full financial need of every admitted undergraduate by making substantial contributions to Yale’s scholarship funds in the name of students coming from Bristol. This year, the Club is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Yale Scholarship Fund, and over the past half century, the YSF has provided in excess of $500,000 for the support of financial aid to about 125 students, including Joan Alexander '84, who was appointed a Superior Court judge at 37—the youngest judge in Connecticut.

“The members of the Bristol Yale Club have been very generous,” says Gregory Hamm '05, a current YSF recipient. “They’ve offered invaluable expertise, experience, and guidance, and it is comforting to know that the Club is always working to ease the financial difficulty of attending this institution, provided that I live up to my end of the bargain and keep my grades up.”

Bert Nelson '33BE and Bart Barnes '29, two of the founding members of the Bristol club, started the YSF in 1953. Earlier, when a Bristol student was accepted at Yale, the club would actually pass a hat to collect money to aid in the student’s tuition and expenses. At one club meeting, Mr. Nelson proposed starting a more formal endowment and by meeting’s end, the 25 club members had raised $30,000. (It should be noted that at the same meeting, a proposal by the club treasurer to increase the $4 club dues by a few dollars was voted down.) Although the Club is small—it has fewer than 30 dues-paying members—the YSF endowment has now grown to over $550,000.

Originally, the scholarships were intended only for freshmen entering Yale from Bristol high schools. Since then, the Club has amended its by-laws, and the scholarship monies can now be designated either in support of Yale’s financial-aid commitment to undergraduates or to graduate students from Bristol-area high schools, including schools from three nearby smaller towns. In 2002, $40,000 of the Club’s funds were utilized for aid awards provided to two undergraduates and four graduate students from the area.

To find potential YSF recipients, Club president J. Harwood Norton '44BS and other members are energetic in their outreach efforts. Every fall, the Club hosts a reception at the local country club to pitch Yale to promising students, principals, and guidance counselors from the area. “Many of these kids are already applying to five or six schools and don’t feel they can afford to apply to one more school,” says Mr. Norton. “We really want to make Yale a possibility so we even promise to reimburse their application fees to the University.”

One of the hallmarks of the program is that Club members get to know the students they support, and for scholarship recipient Greg Miska '03, meeting regularly with his benefactors at various events has been an added benefit. “Over the past few years I’ve grown to know and love the members of the Club,” says Miska. “They’re an open and inviting group of fascinating, hospitable, and generous people, and it’s my belief that my Yale education will only be complete when I can count myself among them.”




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