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Neag School creates fund for students in military

by Janice Palmer - November 14, 2005

The Neag School of Education has created an education fund for its students who are either U.S. service members or veterans who have served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The funds, which may be used for tuition, course materials, and other education expenses, are also available to family members enrolled in the Neag School.

“If we can make life a little easier for these folks who have given up so much in their personal lives to serve our country, then this investment is worth every dollar we can raise for it,” says Richard Schwab, dean.

The Neag Veterans Fund was created by the Dean’s Advisory Board. The board, comprising 21 leaders in business, education, and government, including U.S. Rep. John Larson and State Rep. Lawrence Cafero, provides feedback to the dean on strategies and issues related to the School.

The idea for the veterans fund came about after Schwab conveyed a story to his board about a Neag School student serving in Iraq. Dirk Olmstead, a fifth-grade teacher at Parkville Community School in Hartford and a student in the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program, was called up for duty in July 2004.

Olmstead's National Guard Unit, the 141st Medical Company, spent a short time in Afghanistan before being stationed outside of Tikrit, Iraq.

Several months into his tour, Olmstead e-mailed the Neag School asking if it would be possible to have a textbook sent to him. During his off-duty hours he hoped to throw himself into his studies to take his mind off the dangers of duty and the family and students waiting for him back at home.

The dean was touched by Olmstead’s dedication to his country and his passion for education. “With the kind of motivation Sgt. Olmstead displayed and the role model he is for his students and colleagues, I thought ‘he deserves whatever we can do for him’,” Schwab says.

Within days, he arranged for a box of textbooks, along with a Neag School shirt and jacket, to be shipped to Iraq.

Inspired by this story, advisory board members Cheryl Dickinson and Anita Torrizo organized a fund-raising event in Torrington. An audience of 50 people gathered at the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts for a colorful demonstration by UConn lecturer and floral designer Louise Pastormerlo. More than $5,000 was raised. The board hopes to raise more funds through future events and individual donations.

To make a donation, please contact Terry Gellin, director of development for the Neag School: tgellin@foundation.uconn.edu. To apply for funding, please contact Christine North in the Dean’s Office: christine.north@uconn.edu or 860-486-6186.

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