When Javi Plasencia ’11CC was a high school senior, he dreamed of attending Columbia but assumed that financial considerations would steer him to a more affordable state school. Thrilled to receive the Kluge Scholarship that allowed him to come to Morningside Heights, he says it changed his life’s trajectory.
Determined to make the most of the opportunity, the avid cyclist became involved with the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program, through which he led incoming freshmen on challenging four-day bike trips. He also served on the Columbia College Board of Visitors as a student member. Now a newly minted graduate, the onetime comparative literature major looks forward to his first assignment with Teach For America. “In terms of intellectual development and personal growth, attending Columbia has been as invaluable an experience as I had hoped it would be.”
Each year, financial aid allows a great number of talented and deserving students to attend Columbia College (and other schools at the University) — students who could not attend otherwise. Plasencia says he plans to do his part to keep the pipeline open: “I’m looking forward to giving back to help other students enjoy the same opportunities I received at Columbia.”
In recent years, donors have known that their gifts in support of undergraduate financial aid will have even greater impact thanks to programs funded by the late John Kluge ’37CC, a titan of American broadcasting and the University’s most generous benefactor. Kluge’s $200 million gift for undergraduate scholarships, announced in 2007, has been used in part to create matching programs that have since prompted millions of dollars in additional donations from alumni and friends. Among other things, the gift provided the foundation for Columbia College’s Scholarships 101 program, which continues to multiply the impact of financial aid gifts over $150,000.
An economics major who became one of the nation’s most extraordinary businessmen, Kluge was always grateful for the scholarship that allowed him to attend Columbia and spoke repeatedly of the importance of returning the favor. “I want to help ensure that Columbia will always be a place where young people can come to develop their intellect, make something of their own lives, and give something back to our communities, our country, and our world,” he explained. “That’s one way I can try to make a difference for future generations.”
Published: June 2011