Columbia University

Life-Changing Steps
"To choose a career based on my dreams rather than my debt load is truly a gift."
— Cassia Burke
Photo credit: Bob Handelman
A General Studies student embarks on a new path — building a second career while making a real difference in the world.

When Cassia Burke '11GS was chosen to dance with the Miami City Ballet, she thought she would forgo college for a life en pointe. But after several years, she knew it was time to consider a different career path. Burke volunteered to live and work with AIDS orphans in Uganda, where she was asked to teach English without textbooks or even a lesson plan. “I took a deep breath and spent all summer digging up old poems from memory,” she remembers.

Inspired by the possibilities of life offstage, Burke enrolled in the School of General Studies. Since coming to Columbia she has studied sustainable development, French, and Swahili, and completed a thesis on linguistic policy in Senegal schools. Her outstanding academic performance has earned her crucial financial support — including the Larry J. Lawrence Scholarship, which completely funded her senior year. “Since that summer in Uganda, my passion has been teaching, and I hope to one day make it my career,” says Burke. “The gift of an education is priceless.”

Meet The Donor: Larry J. Lawrence ’69GS, ’71BUS

In addition to supporting the scholarship that benefited Cassia Burke, Larry J. Lawrence ’69GS, ’71BUS donated $1.5 million in 2009 to establish the General Studies Scholars Match. This $3 million fund, which also draws on $1.5 million provided by a pair of anonymous donors, now provides a 1:1 match for new donations of $100,000 or more in support of scholarship endowment at General Studies. Lawrence made the donation in the midst of the global economic downturn because, he says, he and wife Sally realized the gift “would have a bigger impact when it was needed most.”


“The opportunity to attend Columbia provides a life-changing, transformative experience,” says Lawrence, a 2010 Alumni Medalist, Columbia Campaign volunteer leader, and board member of the Columbia Investment Management Company. “Now more than ever, we can help put the University in a position to provide continuing opportunities for aspiring students.”



Published: June 2011