Fulbright Alumni Give Back to History, Social Work
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas alumni Tom Bercher and Francis Hayes Bercher of Racine, Wisconsin, are providing for a testamentary trust of $450,000 to benefit the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. The Tom Bercher History Fellowship and Francis Hayes Bercher Social Work Scholarship Fund will both be established as a result of their generous philanthropy.
“Mr. and Mrs. Bercher are clearly passionate about their respective areas and are supporting each of them generously with their gifts,” said Chris Wyrick, vice chancellor for university advancement. “We are very grateful to them for investing in the University of Arkansas and supporting students in Fulbright College. Scholarships and fellowships are essential resources that allow us to attract and retain the best and brightest students.”
Tom Bercher holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Fulbright College, as well as a master’s degree in public administration. His gift to the history department will create the Tom Bercher History Fellowship, which will be used for teaching support.
Bercher said that James Chase, a professor in the history department, was instrumental in helping him readjust to university life when he returned to campus after serving during the Vietnam War and guided him to his degree. Bercher noted that, without the guidance of a caring professor, he might not have succeeded, and he hopes his contribution to the history department will encourage other professors to follow Chase’s example.
“Any gift in support of our students – whether graduate or undergraduate – and their role in teaching others is beneficial to our department,” said Kathryn Sloan, department chair for history. “Mr. Bercher’s contribution will impact generations of students to come and allow them to fully enjoy and deepen their love and appreciation for the study of history.”
Also a Fulbright graduate, Francis Hayes Bercher holds a Bachelor of Arts in social work and has a master’s degree in social work from New Mexico Highlands University. Her gift to establish the Francis Hayes Bercher Social Work Scholarship Fund will benefit undergraduates in the School of Social Work, which is also part of Fulbright College.
“The need for trained social workers in the community continues to grow in all areas – locally, regionally, statewide and nationally,” said Marcia Shobe, director of the School of Social Work. “Graduates of our program traditionally serve socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and communities throughout both urban and rural Arkansas. These scholarships will help offset college costs for our undergraduate students, many of whom represent low-income, racially and ethnically diverse populations. We are appreciative of Mrs. Bercher’s gift and are confident that her generosity will have a positive effect on our students and on the clients they serve.”
The School of Social Work seeks to improve the lives of vulnerable persons, families, groups, organizations and communities, especially those in economic risk. Their graduates are employed in a variety of occupations, including policy and research in the areas of health, mental and behavioral health, education, homelessness, domestic violence, suicide prevention, end-of-life care, child welfare, elder care, disabilities, community development and equity for marginalized populations.
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