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Donor Testimonials

Donor Testimonials

Gina Benoit '89

Gina Benoit honored the memory of her late husband, John Heredia, by creating a scholarship in his name after his unexpected death at the age of 32. Benoit and Heredia were married in Willimantic while she was a student at Eastern living a few blocks from the university. While a student Benoit worked full-time and part-time jobs in order to fund her education. She also received scholarships to help her achieve her academic goals. Benoit's path was made easier by those who came before her, and now she is giving back to help others as she was helped.

"I wanted to honor John's memory. He was a bigger-than-life personality who needed something with a large impact." (more)

Dr. Barbara Candales '74

Her Eastern education was the springboard for a successful academic and social work career for Barbara Candales, who in 2008 decided to give back in a way that would honor the memory of her parents and fellow Latino and Latina students studying to become social workers.

That year she established the Arturo and Elba Candales Memorial Endowed Scholarship with a gift large enough to endow it on the spot. (more)

David Engelson '67 M '70

For nearly three decades from the 1970s to early this century, David Engelson was pretty much Mr. Elementary School Principal in Vernon. For more than a decade since, he has been Mr. Hockanum Valley Community Council.

Engelson graduated from Eastern in 1967 with a degree in Educational Studies, and again in 1970, when he earned his Master of Science degree in Education. (more)

Teresa (Lemieux) James '49

Teresa (Lemieux) James '49, and her husband Carleton, had always wanted to assist students from the Willimantic area who were studying to be schoolteachers yet needed help going to college. So when Carleton passed away, Mrs. James was pleased to establish the Carleton P. and Teresa H. James Endowed Scholarship.


Dorothy Gardiner Lackman '67

Dorothy LackmanThe Dorothy Gardiner Lackman '67 Memorial Endowed Scholarship was established with a significant endowed gift of $66,000 in December 2014 by three of Dorothy's children - Deborah Walthert, Steve Lackman and Nancy Flynn. The scholarship will assist nontraditional education majors at Eastern while creating an appropriate legacy for Dorothy, who passed away in 2009. (more)

Sharon Mendes '04

Mendes&SonSharon Mendes and Liz Thomas have much in common. Both were non-traditional students who already had children when they enrolled at Eastern, both have a child who became a traditional Eastern student, and both are now donors.

Thomas' daughter Kimberly graduated in 1999, while Mendes' son Anthony graduated in 2009 after majoring in history and running cross country and track at Eastern. While Thomas established her own scholarship, Mendes, who works full time as an academic advisor at UConn, chose to give to an existing scholarship fund that supports students like her. (more)

Liz Thomas '94

Liz ThomasLiz Thomas earned her degree from Eastern the hard way. She was a single mother of two teenagers, working at Eastern and going to school at the same time. She eventually received her degree in Public Policy and Government about the time she turned 47 years old.

Now living in Williamsburg, VA, her daughter and son grown, Thomas recently made a gift to the new scholarship she established that is her largest to date and significant enough to endow it. The Elizabeth A. Thomas Endowed Scholarship can now be awarded on a permanent basis to students who are single mothers, as she was when a student. (more)

Professor Lee Watts

LeClaire (Lee) B. Watts of Storrs, one of the most respected and beloved professors in Eastern's history, died in 2009. Watts taught Spanish and Spanish Literature at Eastern after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut in 1968. She eventually created Eastern's Modern Language Department and chaired it for many years.

"Lee was a visionary with the discipline and spirit to captivate and motivate students to aspire to their potential," said Professor Emerita Sonia Cintron-Marrero, Watts' long-time colleague. "She instilled a love for Spanish and encouraged her students to belong to professional organizations. To me, she was a mentor, a role model and a very special friend who I miss greatly." (more)