URI alumnus establishes $250,000 endowment for engineering student scholarships

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KINGSTON, R.I. — August 10, 2006 — As a student at the University of Rhode Island in the early 1960s, Steve Jonas was president of his fraternity, Sigma Pi, and president of the URI Fraternity President’s Council. Although he was at the top of his class in industrial engineering, it was his fraternity activities that ultimately led to his career in student personnel and higher education administration.

“My career traces directly back to URI and the fraternity and leadership experiences I had there,” Jonas said.

His recent retirement as vice president for administration at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, got him thinking about his estate plans and how he could give back to the University that played such a big role in his career direction and success.

“My wife and I didn’t have provisions in our will other than ‘he gets/she gets,’ and since we don’t have any children, it was a question of where is this money going to go,” said the Centerville, Ohio resident. “We both have doctorates in higher education, so we’ve been interested in doing something to support students.”

What Jonas and his wife Jan decided was to establish a $250,000 endowment through their will to provide scholarships to students in the URI College of Engineering.

“The University provided me with scholarship help when I was a student, and without it there’s no way I could have enrolled,” he said. “We decided that because URI helped me when I needed it, maybe we could do something to help someone else who wants to attend.”

The earnings from the endowment will be used to provide scholarships to undergraduate engineering students based on academic merit.

Steve and Jan Jonas returned to URI for the first time in many years during the summer of 2005 to attend a reunion of his fraternity brothers. “I swore I would never go to a reunion in my life,” he joked, “but I saw some guys for the first time in 40 years and we had a fantastic time.”

It brought back memories not only of his fraternity activities, but also memories of his engineering classes and professors, especially mechanical engineering professor William Ferrante, who later became URI vice president for academic affairs and interim president. “He was a phenomenal faculty member,” Jonas recalled. “You needed to be on your toes to get through his class, but you walked out of there and you knew the material.”

The nostalgia of his visit to campus helped to cement his decision to establish the Steve & Jan Jonas Engineering Scholarship Fund.

“Over the years more and more alumni and friends of the University have made provisions for URI in their estate plans, just as Steve Jonas has,” said Robert Clough, URI senior development officer. “It establishes a legacy in his name that will enable the College of Engineering to attract students that might otherwise have been unable to attend. We sincerely appreciate his generous support.”

Because the endowment will be funded through his estate, Jonas has become one of the newest members of the 1892 Society, which was established to recognize individuals who have made URI part of their estate plans.

The endowment is also part of URI’s Making a Difference Campaign, which seeks $100 million to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student-centered campus experience, provide undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, and fund cutting-edge academic and research initiatives.