$5 Million Gift from Kenneth French ’78S (MBA), ’81S (MS), ’83S (PhD) and Vickie French Establishes the KRFrench Family Scholars Program

$5 Million Gift Establishes the KRFrench Family Scholars Program

A $5 million gift from Kenneth French ’78S (MBA), ’81S (MS), ’83S (PhD) and Vickie French establishes the KRFrench Family Scholars Program within Arts, Sciences & Engineering (AS&E) at the University of Rochester. The new scholarship program provides financial aid and a robust network of academic support for students with high academic potential and demonstrated financial need. Preference will be given to underrepresented minority students and/or first-generation students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

For Ken and his wife, Vickie, their goal in making this gift was altruistic: “to help make the world a better place.” An economist by trade, Ken says, “I tend to focus on maximizing opportunities.” Investing in students at this point in their lives, he says, will have a positive effect for many decades.

“I attribute much of whatever success I have had to the bright people available to me at Rochester,” says Ken. “I had almost unlimited access to the school’s strong faculty, and 35 years later they continue to give me guidance and advice.”

Ken French earned three advanced degrees from the University of Rochester and, today, he is the Roth Family Distinguished Professor of Finance at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, a position he has held since 2011. Ken is also a consultant to Dimensional Fund Advisors, a global investment firm, a member of the firm’s board of directors, and co-chair of the firm’s investment research committee.

“We believe that every student who enrolls here is capable of success, and the Frenches’ generous gift is about empowering that success,” says Richard Feldman, president of the University of Rochester. “While many of our high-need students can secure financial aid, they often need more to flourish—they need guidance, perspective, and encouragement. The French Scholars Program addresses all of this and will help students navigate the entire collegiate experience.”

“Giving disadvantaged students access to higher education and the resources they need to thrive will position them well for success during college and in life,” says Vickie.

The KRFrench Family Scholars Program will support five incoming students per year for all four years of their undergraduate study, beginning in the fall of the 2018-19 academic year. Over time, the gift will sustain 20 students annually, and will provide each with a partial scholarship in addition to a system of support as well as additional funds for enrichment opportunities such as research, internships, and education abroad.

For example, several staff members will be available to French Scholars, including a KRFrench Family Scholars advisor to offer individual support and bring the students together as a cohort for peer support. The students also have access to a dedicated financial aid counselor with the Office of Admissions. “The University of Rochester has a great system in place to implement this scholarship program,” adds Ken. “For me it’s as if I hired a partner to implement something that Vickie and I would like to accomplish.”

The Frenches have supported students at the University for more than a decade through a jam fund that provides a financial safety net for students who face a family or personal emergency, or other unexpected financial need or “jam.” Consistent with their latest gift, the fund gives students support when students need it most, helping ensure they graduate from the University and go on to thrive in their lives and careers.

“The jam fund that Ken and Vickie designed helps close financial gaps that could otherwise prevent student success,” says Jeffrey Runner, dean of the College. “I am thrilled that they are expanding upon their original vision and doing even more to help our students overcome obstacles and be successful.”

The KRFrench Family Scholars Program is modeled after two highly successful endowed scholarship programs at the University: the Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship and the Brady Scholarship. Each provides comprehensive financial, academic, and social support. Both programs have retention and graduation rates well above average.

“These programs illustrate how powerful scholarship support is and how it creates opportunities for students from all different backgrounds to do well in college and grow into critical thinkers who can contribute to the larger community,” adds Runner. “The Frenches have made such an inspired, life-changing gift, and for that we are grateful.”


—Kristine Thompson, April 2018

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