Arcadia University has been part of MaryLou Mees’ family for nearly a century. Her mother, Jeannette Stuart Bratt ’30, enrolled to study early childhood education just after the then college moved to the Jenkintown campus. In the early 1950s, Mees’ grandmother hosted teas for prospective Beaver College students and their mothers—some of which were attended by longtime president, Dr. Raymon Kistler (1940 – 1960), who was once a well-respected minister in Mees’ hometown of Rochester, N.Y. Other Arcadia connections arose serendipitously over the years, including one in 1989, when she and her mother were riding on a trolley in Sanibel, Fla. They noticed another mother-daughter pair were the only other passengers on the bus, so they struck up a conversation and discovered that the duo were also Arcadia alumnae.
“We keep having fun experiences that connect us to Arcadia,” says MaryLou, noting similar encounters she’s had in Florida, Rochester, and in the Philadelphia area.
A strong connection to Arcadia and its alumni community is one of the many reasons why Mees and her husband, Tom—an honorary member of Arcadia’s Class of 1959—have remained steadfast supporters of the university over the years. MaryLou worked as a class fund agent for three decades and, as part of the New York State alumni committee, helped raise $1 million during a campaign for the college in the 1980s. Tom served Arcadia as a board member from 1979-1984.
In 2014, the Class of 1959 decided to establish a scholarship in honor of their 55th reunion. As seasoned fundraisers and Arcadia volunteers, Tom and MaryLou joined their classmates to help current students in need of financial support.
“Raising money for scholarships is important. It helps build the college, as well as the surrounding area,” MaryLou says. “That’s what interested both of us—helping students—and we wanted to encourage other people to pitch in with us.”
“We know the class pretty well. It’s a wonderful class, a really nice group of people,” Tom adds. The alumni are interested in supporting family, students, church, and the community, and believe in education as an important value.
Five years later, when the Class of 1959 celebrated its 60th reunion, Tom and MaryLou learned about the Arcadia Financial Aid Initiative (AFAI). Through AFAI, the university offered donors a 1:1 match on gifts to establish new or supplement existing scholarship funds. In the convergence of their class’s milestone and the matching funds, ”we saw a golden opportunity to push the Class of 1959 Scholarship to a more significant level.”
“[AFAI] specifically appealed to us because there was a matching component,” Tom says. “We said, ‘Let’s make the most of this money.’”
The couple sent out letters to all their classmates letting them know about the scholarship drive and the matching funds. After the class’s contributions—including one from the Mees—and the AFAI match, the Class of 1959’s total scholarship fund more than doubled in value. It’s now the largest endowed class scholarship at Arcadia.
“We are really pleased with the momentum of Arcadia and the priorities of Dr. [Ajay] Nair,” MaryLou says.
“Arcadia is a place with serious educational values and a great sense of community,” Tom adds. “Those are important things. Working together with the greater Philadelphia community to help educate those who are just coming up is the best thing we can do for the future.”
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