The Fordham Graduate School of Education (GSE) is proud to announce that two outstanding students who are studying to become teachers were awarded a Joseph C. Zoller Memorial Scholarship. The students were presented with the $15,000 scholarships at an awards reception following the 18th Annual Joseph C. Zoller Memorial Fund Golf Classic.
According to Richard Zoller, Chairman of the Joseph C. Zoller Foundation, the scholarships are given to well-deserving students attending the Fordham Graduate School of Education who are studying to pursue a career in teaching. Both students are enrolled in the Fordham Accelerated Masters in Teaching program, which enables Fordham undergraduate students to obtain a Masters in Teaching (M.S.T.) degree with one additional year of study beyond the completion of their undergraduate degree.
“It is heartwarming to hear about the positive impact the scholarship provides scholars for their future success. I thank Roger Van Allen, Director of Development, and José Luis Alvarado, Dean of the GSE, for their tremendous support. It means a great deal to me personally, as well as the rest of the board, to see how involved they and Fordham are in the students’ education,” expressed Zoller. “We are also very thankful to our supporters, whose generosity enabled us to distribute two significant scholarships this year.”
This year’s recipients are Skyler McGrath, who is pursuing a M.S.T. in childhood education, and Andy Zheng, who is pursuing a M.S.T. with dual certification in childhood education and early childhood education.
Skyler McGrath’s path to teaching was always clear since high school. But getting there was difficult as she has dyslexia; she recalls how hard elementary school was for her. “I was a little kid dealing with this disability. I was pulled out of the classroom for additional reading support and the other kids would ask me where I was going and why I was never in the classroom during reading. I felt a little bit stupid, but my teachers supported me and would say I wasn’t stupid and were always there for me. They and my family became part of my life support system. I wanted to be a teacher for that reason, to be part of my future students’ support system. This is definitely my main reason for becoming a teacher.”
McGrath chose to attend Fordham because it offered the Accelerated M.S.T .program. She majored in psychology with a minor in classical civilization. Knowing that she intended to enter the 5-year program, McGrath was able to take graduate level classes her senior year and began field work as an undergraduate.
As to McGrath’s outlook on becoming a teacher, she explained that as an elementary school teacher, she can help children grow both inside and outside the classroom. She will be teaching them life skills such as empathy and respect, and she really likes this aspect of the profession. McGrath also looks forward to being the person the children can come to for help. “If they are struggling, I look forward to being able to say, let’s work through this together. I want to give back to my students in the same way my teachers helped me.”
As for Andy Zheng, becoming a teacher could be considered a career change. Coming from a traditional Asian heritage, his parents encouraged him to major in a STEM field, and he entered Fordham as an undergraduate, as a computer science major. To help offset the cost of college, he took a job working at a children’s after school program. That’s when he got the first spark that made him realize he wanted to do something in the education field.
“When I was working with the little kids, I felt comfortable. And there were moments that really touched my heart. That is when I discovered my passion for teaching. I wanted to give something to these children so they could succeed in the future. Also, there were students in whom I saw images of myself, and I wanted to give them the kind of opportunity that wasn’t given to me, so they could have an easier educational journey,” said Andy Zheng.
Both Zheng and McGrath are truly grateful for the scholarship support offered to them by the Zoller Foundation.
Andy Zheng added, “This scholarship gives me the opportunity to pursue what I am really passionate about – teaching. Fordham is an excellent school, but as with most universities of this caliber, it is also expensive. So being given this scholarship makes it a lot easier for me to dive deeply into my studies rather than having to worry about tuition and money. It lessens a lot of the burden on my parents and me.”
Skyler McGrath echoed a similar sentiment, “My senior year, I was really debating if I wanted to stay in the program or not, because my financial situation changed. I was thinking I needed to find a job and go directly into working after graduation. But I had already invested so much time, and I like working with kids. I really knew teaching is what I want to do, so I applied for the Zoller Scholarship. When I received the email that I was going to be a recipient, it was a sign that I needed to stay in the M.S.T. program and fulfill my dream.” She also commented on the Zoller family believing in her, and that the scholarship is giving her the chance to pay it forward as a teacher.
The endowed scholarship fund was set up by Richard and Judith Zoller in memory of their son, Joseph C. Zoller, CBA ’87, who died prematurely and tragically in 2004 at the age of 39. The fund’s purpose is to ensure that continued financial assistance is provided to deserving students pursuing a Fordham graduate degree in education. Sadly, Judith and Richard passed away in 2019 and 2020, respectively. This year’s reception was also a wonderful opportunity to honor them and their commitment to growing this scholarship fund.
The Fordham Graduate School of Education is forever grateful to Richard Zoller, Jr., the Zoller Memorial Fund Board members, and all the supporters of the Joseph C. Zoller Memorial Scholarship fund dedicated to maintaining the legacy of Joseph, Richard, and Judith. The Zoller family’s devotion to the foundation and its commitment to furthering education are sure to continue to inspire teachers of tomorrow.
Others who might be interested in setting up their own scholarship should contact Jacqueline Comesanas, Director of Gift Planning, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-636-7244.