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Why we give: '97 classmates join efforts to endow scholarship


L to R: Dave Farsiou, John Phoebus, Wayne Mowery, and Jeff Yelen, led a classwide effort to establish a scholarship fund.
Four friends and Dickinson School of Law classmates made a pact as third-year students in September 1996: to never cook a meal on their own. Dave Farsiou, Wayne Mowery, John Phoebus, and Jeff Yelen, all members of the Class of 1997, lived on campus, bought a meal plan at Dickinson College, and created a schedule for lunch and dinner at various diners in town. “I am proud that I cooked not a single meal,” said Phoebus, who now enjoys a career in criminal defense and litigation in Crisfield, Maryland, and the surrounding area.

Fifteen years later, the 1997 classmates entered another pact: to create a scholarship benefitting Dickinson School of Law students of superior academic achievement.

Self-described “ringleader” Yelen was seeking to make a meaningful contribution to the Law School when he conceived of the idea to pool resources and establish a scholarship fund. Yelen, who practices with Yelen Law Offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, recruited Phoebus, Mowery, an intellectual property attorney in State College, Pennsylvania, and Farsiou, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Woodcock Washburn LLP, to join him in making a significant commitment to the school. Together, the friends pledged to make lead gifts—a combined total of more than $40,000—toward the creation of a student scholarship.

Although the group originally planned to endow the scholarship in their names, they soon agreed that by naming it for their class, they could help to encourage classmates to also make significant commitments, particularly as the class prepared to celebrate its 15th reunion in Carlisle last September. To promote the scholarship and assist with soliciting additional gifts, each agreed to serve alongside other classmates on their Class of 1997 Reunion Challenge Committee. The foursome is asking classmates to make a minimum pledge of $5,000, payable over a period of up to five years.

Phoebus encourages his classmates and fellow alumni to think of their gifts as taking one client’s payment and using that to benefit the Law School each year. “That’s how I think of it,” said Phoebus. “Fifteen years out, I’m glad to be able to do this. I am happy to give back to the law school that’s made me the lawyer I am today.”

Yelen, a longtime Law School volunteer and member of the inaugural board of the newly established Dickinson School of Law Alumni Society, hopes that his classmates will see the scholarship as a way to make a tangible impact. He also hopes that their efforts will inspire other individuals and/or classes to find ways to give back in recognition of the education that prepared them for their careers.

Yelen emphasized that all gifts made to the Law School benefit its students. “Sometimes people need a little push to think about the importance of their law school and a way for them to get involved. I’m happy to say that I benefitted from this school and it’s worthwhile,” said Yelen, one of several members of his family to graduate from The Dickinson School of Law including his father, Sandor Yelen ’56; his uncle, Barry Yelen ’66, PSU ’62; his brother, Michael Yelen ’95; and cousins Hannah Greenwald ’98 and Rebekah Saidman-Krauss ’12.

Gifts and pledges to the Class of 1997 Scholarship for Academic Excellence now total approximately $54,000. The scholarship will be activated when the fund reaches $50,000 in realized gifts, the minimum level required for a scholarship endowment. The scholarship will benefit incoming and current students “who have achieved superior academic records or who manifest promise of outstanding academic success.”

For more information on making a pledge commitment, contact Kelly Rimmer at krimmer@psu.edu or visit Make a Gift online.

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