Building Bridges Through International Scholarship
Connecting Students and Cultures
Connecting people of different cultures, customs and philosophies in life - that is the essence of Erik and Antoinette (Atch) Stapper's support for exemplary Lasell students who study abroad.
It was a personal, lifelong connection, made at Lasell in 1954 between then-student Atch (Ruinen) of Curacao, West Indies, and her roommate Mary McNamara Nathan of Albany, NY, that became the foundation for the McNamara '56/Ruinen '56 Fund for International Students or Study.
"Their friendship is a joy to behold and to be a part of for these last 60 years; I wanted to recognize how by chance [they came together]," says Lasell Trustee Erik J. Stapper, who created the scholarship fund in his wife's and McNamara's name in 2001.
Since then, the Stappers, who now divide their time between homes in New York and at Lasell Village, have provided scholarship support to deserving Lasell students who share an interest in learning and building bridges abroad.
"Being able to communicate with individuals of different backgrounds is an invaluable experience," Atch Stapper tells Leaves.
Lasell Junior Kelsy Chandler is in total agreement.
The Elementary Education major, who received the McNamara/Ruinen scholarship this year, spent the Spring semester studying at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, South Africa. One of her most memorable courses took her to the Lynedoch Primary School where she taught 4th grade.
"These students experience life struggles far different from the students I teach in Newton," Chandler says, "and I am excited to see how this experience will aid my dreams of becoming a teacher."
That's music to the Stappers' ears.
After meeting Chandler last Fall, the couple was impressed with her commitment to the community (her calendar is packed with service events) and her international interests.
"We can truly feel confident about the future when today's students will be in charge with the knowledge that there is a large and different world to be considered," Erik Stapper says.
For her part, Chandler is grateful for the Stappers' support, which has enabled her to understand education systems in South Africa and imagine new possibilities as an elementary school educator.
"I would not have had this opportunity without the assistance of this scholarship," the Marlborough, MA. native says. "It has helped me to accomplish my dreams and gain unforgettable experience abroad."
Through the South Africa trip, Chandler has explored new connections between her classroom work in the Newton Public schools and abroad - and with her Civic Leadership minor.
"My true calling is to help those who wouldn't obtain an education otherwise. My focus is in helping others -- and working as a community to do so," she adds.
The Stappers (and Lasell) look forward to seeing the bridges Chandler is poised to build.