NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - For Sam Adepoju, receiving a Rutgers Assistance Grant meant the difference between a dream deferred and a dream fulfilled.

As a first-year student at Rutgers University-Camden, Adepoju was not sure where the money for tuition would come from. His family, who emigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 2000, had limited funds available to help Adepoju pay for college.

“I had no idea how it would work out,” Adepoju recalls. “But I got a Rutgers Assistance Grant, and that prevented a dream deferred. I wouldn’t have been able to go to school without it.” His dream? To go to medical school and become a surgeon.

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Adepoju, who will graduate in 2020, is just one of about 11,000 undergraduate students universitywide who received a Rutgers Assistance Grant in the past year. Beginning in the academic year 2020-21, the grants will be known as Scarlet Promise Grants and will be the focus of efforts to raise a $3 million endowment to help support the grants in perpetuity.

The renewed focus on this grant program grew out of two task forces commissioned by Rutgers’ Board of Trustees – the Task Force on Student Aid and the Task Force on Philanthropy. The student aid task force found that a growing number of students are unable to complete their degrees because of limited resources, while others can graduate but leave college saddled with significant debt.

As a result, the board is undertaking several initiatives to address these financial challenges and to seek more significant private support for need-based grants and scholarships. For instance, the trustees agreed to establish an annual Trustee Challenge in support of need-based aid, with three trustees kicking off the challenge by making gifts of $100,000 each to support a new Scarlet Promise Grants endowment. Going forward, the board and Rutgers University Foundation will work to raise $3 million for the endowment within 10 years.

The trustee gifts, announced at the board’s meeting on June 20, were made by Mary DiMartino DC’85, chair of the board until June 30, and her husband, Victor DiMartino CC’82; James Dougherty RC’74, GSNB’75, vice chair of the board; and philanthropy task force chair Ken Johnson ENG’66 and his wife, Jackie Johnson. DiMartino, Dougherty, and Johnson join other trustees who have made leadership gifts to a variety of university causes that speak to their deep commitment to Rutgers.

As the first in their families to go to college, DiMartino and her husband understood the sacrifices others made to help them achieve their dreams. “We were thinking of ways to give back,” she says, “and that coincided with the work the Board of Trustees was doing to address student financial need. It’s humbling and exciting to know that we’ve benefited from the support and generosity of others, and now it’s our turn to give back and help others as they pursue their dreams of a college education.”