Celebrating 85 years of Alumni Scholarships

It’s 1934. In the depths of Great Depression, almost 25 percent of the workforce is unemployed. Millions of acres of farmland are lost in the Dust Bowl, bankrupting farmers. Congress debates the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. Things aren’t looking up, and the chance for a college education is lost for too many talented future leaders.

Amidst these dark times, the Cal Alumni Association launched The Leadership Award (TLA), now one of Berkeley’s most prestigious merit-based scholarships. Intended to recognize outstanding leadership, TLA initially provided a stipend of less than $100—perhaps not significant from today’s perspective, but when rent cost $20 a month, bread 8 cents a loaf, and gas 10 cents a gallon, that “small” stipend had real meaning for young scholars. The Leadership Award program was initiated with 15 students; today, it has served more than 15,000 scholars. As we prepare to celebrate 85 years of Alumni Scholarships, CAA now honors more than 800 students each year through the Alumni Scholars Program, awarding more than $2.2 million in financial aid.

“Scholarships are some of the things CAA can be really proud of,” says Joani Carpenter ’67, former senior director of stewardship and scholarship. “We’re pros at this. It’s one of our great strengths.”

CAA continues to step up, developing programs that have evolved as our student community has grown in numbers and diversity. The Achievement Award Program (TAAP) serves outstanding students with financial need who demonstrate active community engagement. TAAP provides financial and program support throughout students’ undergraduate careers.

In the late 90’s, UC Berkeley Chancellor Emeritus Robert Berdahl led initiatives to increase outreach to underserved students as a way to continue increasing student diversity at Cal. In response to the chancellor’s initiatives, CAA board members and staff birthed The Achievement Award Program.

Carpenter believes “TAAP builds community and a culture of shared understanding. These students humble and inspire me. They are survivors. They want to make a difference. We need them here, in California—they are our future.”

With the passing of Prop. 209, Cal saw a dramatic decrease in enrollment rates among underrepresented student populations: African-American, Chicano/Latino, and Native American/Alaska Native. In 2007, current and former CAA board members and local leaders—including Cloey Hewlett ’76, J.D. ’79, CAA executive director; Betty Yee ’79, California State Board of Equalization and current State Controller; Holly Lake ’93, attorney; Josh Fryday ’03, J.D. ’09, Mayor of Novato, California; and Doug Boxer ’88, local community leader—formed a committee to create the Equity Scholarship, increasing access to education for minority populations.

In 2014, CAA received funding to expand the Equity Scholarship by increasing the number of freshman and junior transfers recipients. A new era was born when the Equity Scholarship transitioned to the Kruttschnitt Aspire Scholarship Program (KASP).

The Kruttschnitt Aspire Scholarship Program helps to close the financial gap that often prohibits candidates from underserved communities from accessing Cal. KASP supports high-achieving, underrepresented students with programming and a $6,000 scholarship. Named in honor of Theodore (Ted) Kruttschnitt ’64, whose financial support made the scholarship possible, KASP addresses the needs of a growing number of underrepresented minority students on campus. Our Alumni Scholars forever will be grateful for the opportunities provided to them while receiving this scholarship.

The Alumni Scholars Program oversees a rich array of scholarships that makes it possible for the best, brightest, and most diverse community of students in history to access UC Berkeley. Our program is supported through the generosity of thousands of alumni whose lives were changed and dreams were enabled by the incredible experience of a Cal education.

We’re 85 years strong—and still Golden.


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