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Letter to the Editor: Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Says Farewell to Yowell

Novelist Paul Auster wrote that the best one can do in life is to “leave the world a little better than you found it.” On June 30, after 10 years as the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria’s Executive Director Susan Yowell will leave the organization a lot better than when she arrived a decade ago.

During her tenure, SFA’s annual scholarship awards to T.C. Williams students more than tripled, growing from about $279,000 in 2003 to $920,000 in 2012. Over the same period, the size of SFA’s General Fund awards to students grew from $1,000 to $2,500 per year. Annual contributions to SFA followed a similar trajectory, increasing from approximately $400,000 in 2003, to $1 million in 2012.

These are impressive accomplishments, but SFA does more than just provide financial aid. Since 2005, U.Va.’s Virginia’s College Advising Corps has placed a recent college graduate in SFA’s office at T.C. Williams to help students with virtually all aspects of college access, including selection, admissions, testing, application essays, scholarships and financial aid. SFA’s knowledgeable staff also help students and their families complete financial aid forms and navigate the sometimes complicated and confusing process to qualify for financial aid from other sources.

On Ms. Yowell’s watch, SFA’s two signature events have also expanded and improved. The organization’s Spring Gala has become one of the city’s most popular and successful fundraising events. In addition to a number of refinements that have made the gala more fun and lively, the SFA introduced a new car raffle in 2008, courtesy of Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota. As a result, the event, which barely broke even in 2003, netted more than $330,000 last year to support need-based scholarships. This year’s gala is set for April 27, at the Hilton Mark Center.

SFA’s other major event, the Fall Telethon, has evolved, too. In 2010, the organization added a social media fundraising campaign called “Clash of the T.C. Titans.” The Clash is a friendly alumni challenge in which past graduates can show their Titan Pride by providing financial support to help fellow Titans succeed. This initiative now accounts for nearly a quarter of the Telethon’s earnings.

Although Ms. Yowell will miss her job, she’s ready to depart after 10 years at the helm. “I’ve loved every day as executive director, but I want to pursue some things that I haven’t been able to do while working full time for the Fund,” she said. “SFA is in great shape organizationally. We have a clear mission, a loyal donor and volunteer base, and a committed board of trustees. I am confident that the Fund will continue to grow and support Alexandria students,” Ms. Yowell added.

The search for Ms. Yowell’s successor is currently underway. The job listing and application for the executive director position was posted April 12 on the Alexandria City Public Schools employment web site, http://www.acps.k12.va.us/hr/recruit/. In addition to a competitive salary, the position includes a full benefits package. Interested applicants should apply without delay.

“The board of trustees looks forward to finding an executive director who loves this city, has a passion for helping students pursue their dreams of higher education, and is committed to furthering the Fund’s mission,” said Cathy Puskar, a 1985 graduate of T.C. Williams and the current chair of SFA’s board of trustees.

For more information about the Scholarship Fund, please visit www.alexscholarshipfund.org.

The author, a 1984 graduate of T.C. Williams, has served on SFA’s Board of Trustees since 2008, and was the board’s chair in 2010. He is a partner at the law firm of Hunton & Williams LLP, specializing in business litigation.