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Inaugural Scholarship Fund Names First Recipients
Fund supports undergraduates from Staten Island, Pleasant Valley, Manhattan and Albany

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 1, 2006) -- Jeffrey Castillo of Manhattan, Zakhar (Zack) Berkovich of Staten Island, Jessica Gunsch of Pleasant Valley, New York, and Sheila Gaddy of Albany have been named the first scholarship recipients of the University's Inaugural Scholarship Fund.

Established by President Kermit L. Hall when he took office in February 2005, the Inaugural Scholarship Fund provides need- and merit-based undergraduate student scholarships. The fund was jumpstarted with $100,000 that the campus might have spent on a presidential inauguration. Instead, Hall forewent a formal ceremony and, with his wife Phyllis, personally pledged $10,000 toward the fund. Since the fund's inception it has generated $1.7 million in support, including a $700,000 donation in December 2005 from the estate of alumnus Irving Harold Losee. Other donors include the graduating classes of 2005 and 2006, the University Police Department, Chartwells, Barnes and Noble, and more than 800 private individuals, corporations and foundations that have helped drive the fund past its initial target of $1 million in only 10 months.

"It says a lot about the University that the president would use money set aside for his inauguration to establish the Inaugural Scholarship Fund instead," Castillo said. The Manhattan native enrolled at the University because "UAlbany had the most established business program in the entire SUNY system. I read the profile of [Associate Professor and Chair of Marketing] William Danko, who co-authored The Millionaire Next Door," and decided to apply for admission. Three years later, he finds his UAlbany education "superior to that of some of my peers who go to other schools," including Ivy League institutions.

Gunsch, a senior, majors in business and minors in English and women's studies. The eldest of five children, she plans a career on Wall Street. "I want to be happy with what I do, not just have a job," she says.

Severely injured in an auto accident several years ago, Gunsch, 21, overcame her doctors' doubts that she would recover and refused to listen to friends who told her that she would probably have to abandon her plans for college. "I'm proud to attend UAlbany because we have a president like Dr. Hall who cares for students," Gunsch said. "Not many students have the opportunity to get something like this scholarship. I want to be out in the community making a difference when I graduate. And I want to give back to the University so I can support other students. I know it's going to be hard, but I have the commitment and the drive to succeed."

A sophomore with senior standing who has majors in biology and Judaic studies and a minor in mathematics, Berkovich immigrated to Staten Island from Belarus with his parents and younger sister several years ago. A work/study student for the Division of University Development, he is active with Albany Crew, Hillel, and the Spirit Committee. "I want to explore a lot of things and leave my imprint," explains Berkovich, who packs as much as he can into a typical day and has decided that "sleep is overrated."

Gaddy, an Albany native "on a mission to do something with my life," enrolled at UAlbany two years ago. Now a senior Africana studies major and English minor, she hopes to teach at the University someday.

Gaddy said, "There are just no words for being acknowledged for your accomplishments. The University gives students a lot of support. People like President Hall; [Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs] Carson Carr; [Assistant Dean for Student Affairs] Nancy Belowich-Negron; and [Professor and Chair of Africana Studies] Leonard A. Slade Jr. make it possible for students like me to make it, and I really mean that."

Each student received $1,000-$2,500 in scholarship support.

Currently $1 million of the fund has been earmarked for The Honors College at the University at Albany, a university-wide interdisciplinary enterprise for undergraduates focused on faculty-student mentorship, research, citizenship and academic excellence. This includes Losee's donation, which will create the Irving Harold Losee Scholarship Fund to support Honors College students. Losee was a 1938 graduate of the University. Another $500,000 of the fund has been allocated for other need-based student scholarships.


The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages more than 17,000 diverse students in nine degree-granting schools and colleges. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit

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