Family helps endow Student Hardship Fund
By Michelle Hiskey | Development Communications | Nov. 6, 2013
A family that has sent generations of students to Emory University is now helping today's students who need emergency funding.
The Beckham family, whose legacy at Emory stretches from the post-Civil War era, recently directed its endowment to benefit the Student Hardship Fund. The endowment is expected to initially produce $10,000 each year to help students who experience financial crises that interfere with their education.
"It's not for tuition, but for any hardship that threatens a student's ability to continue in school," said Walter H. Beckham III 70C 77L, who arranged the endowment on behalf of his family. "Our family knows that there are all kinds of ways that financial need can arise, and meeting that need can become critical. "
Stephen Ratner 12C and Jordan Stein 12C set up the Student Hardship Fund during their senior year in 2012. The fund has benefited students who experienced a death of a loved one, severe illness or accidents, uninsured losses from fire, crime, flood and other disasters. Other students have received financial support after a family member became unemployed or sick.
"The Beckham family's generous endowment will allow the Student Hardship Fund to continue to respond to peers facing unforeseen threats to their academic and personal progress," Ratner and Stein said in a joint statement. "The dedication of the hardship fund's student committee and administration partners is seen in their quest to ensure that every student—regardless of socioeconomic background—has the opportunity to thrive even in the face of an unpredictable and changing economy."
Thirteen Beckham family members spanning five generations have received degrees from Emory. Some family members faced monetary obstacles to their academic progress and have benefited from philanthropy.
Financial circumstances forced Robert Young Beckham, a disabled Confederate soldier, to leave Oxford College. His grandson, Walter H. Beckham Jr. 41C, received critical scholarship support while pursuing his law degree at Harvard University.
"He was asked to pay it back when he was in position to replenish the fund and help others going forward," Walter Beckham III said. "As soon as he could, he did that at Harvard and he decided to establish a similar fund at Emory."
Established in the late 1970s, the Beckham Family Fund served as a loan fund to help Emory students in need. Now, distributions from the Beckham Family Fund will be directed to the Student Hardship Fund, which has grown through donations from other alumni, parents, faculty, staff and others.
The fund is administered by a committee of students, faculty and financial aid officer Delicia Lucky, who ensures information is kept confidential. Students may apply once a year and there is no expectation of repayment, though the Beckham family hopes recipients follow the footsteps of his grandfather. "We strongly encourage recipients to make annual contributions of any amount to help replenish the fund," Beckham said.
To apply for the Student Hardship Fund or to donate, see emory.edu/FINANCIAL_AID/hardship.