Endowed for Perpetuity

Author(s): Tim Brouk
Photographs by: Tim Brouk

One of the biggest scholarships for women in the College of Scifffence is also the most mysterious. Every year, the Mae and Lloyd J. Jandos Scholarship awards $5,000 per student to deserving undergraduates in Women in Science Programs.

This academic year, 17 students each received a scholarship, and 19 are scheduled to benefit from the money in 2014-15. In total, $500,000 has gone to science students since the scholarship was introduced in 2009, including a few students who received the award multiple times.

The mystery behind the large scholarship is its benefactors. Mae and Lloyd J. Jandos’ daughter, Joyce Zawila, graduated with a science degree in 1956. When Zawila died in 2006, her will had specific instructions for a large part of her estate to go to the Purdue Foundation for the purpose of a $1.6 million endowment fund for science students.

Purdue received the first portion — a half-million dollars —on Dec. 13, 2007. Since then, the money has grown and so has the mystery of a family that has helped almost 100 undergraduates after decades of no other documented communication.

“That is the sum total of what we know about these people,” says Barbara Clark, director of diversity and Women in Science Programs. “By the time we found out about this, they were all deceased.”

Clark works with a committee to select students who have completed at least one semester and have at least a year left of school. Applicants for the Jandos Scholarship must have a minimum grade point average of 2.75.

Clark believes the scholarship is a valuable tool in retaining science students, making sure they do not feel the need to transfer to another major or university. Jandos winners must have experience in diversity as well — either as part of an organization,
charity or events.

“We decided to make the requirement of ‘high-achieving’ more generous. Instead of just choosing the 4.0 students, who get all of the awards, we think 2.75 students are still among those who will graduate, get jobs and be contributing members of society,” Clark says.

At the beginning of the school year, Clark started to organize meetings of the 17 current Jandos Scholarship recipients. Clark, a computer scientist, leads networking and discussion topics that matter to successful women like the impostor syndrome, a psychological notion by some women who believe they may not deserve their success and accomplishments, and "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," a popular book by Sheryl Sandberg.

“I think it helps facilitate their growth,” Clark says of the twice-asemester meetings. “Next year we are going to have them attend some diversity events and write some reflection papers on that.

"We’re getting a little more intrusive in working with them but I think they like that. … Supporting them in other ways besides the money is beneficial to them.”

Before a meeting in February, chemistry senior Rachel Svetanoff, computer science senior Lillian Liu and biological sciences junior Amanda Mark expressed their gratitude for the scholarship and revealed the impact the dollars have made during their time in the College of Science.

“It saved my life,” says Svetanoff. “If it wasn’t for this scholarship, I wouldn’t be at Purdue and I wouldn’t be able to afford college. After my dad passed away, my mom didn’t have a job. … There would be no other way I could’ve afforded college. … We were on a really tight budget.”

The Jandos award helped Svetanoff survive and thrive during her last few years at Purdue. She has been a part of Purdue Science Student Council, Purdue Student Government, American Chemical Society, Purdue Student Pugwash and, of course, Women in Science Programs.

Mark, a health and disease major, became a first-time Jandos Scholarship recipient in the fall. Her tuition was paid for with a State of Indiana 21st Century Scholarship. She has found the timing of the Jandos money to be great, helping her pay for books and living expenses. “It’s put me on a budget each month," she says.

"Liu shares a similar story. “I used to work three different jobs, so this scholarship allows me to work significantly less hours,” she says. “It’s nice to know that if you work hard during your undergraduate years, you can earn this reward.” The recipients acknowledge the atypical story behind the scholarship.

“I thought it was amazing that randomly a big pile of money showed up at the College of Science’s front door,” Mark says. “Now it’s being put to good use, being given to people who need it, who are working hard at Purdue trying to pay for their education, maybe get out of undergrad with not a whole lot of debt and maybe pursue a professional or graduate education. So it’s actually helping students to do that, like me. I’m very thankful for it.”

Svetanoff says, “All of us who have received the scholarship have worked hard to earn it. The story is like a miracle. It’s almost unbelievable.“

Jandos meeting

Anavi Nahar (right) gets in on the discussion at a Jandos Scholarship meeting as Rebekah Figueroa (left) looks on.