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In autumn 2011, when first-years, wide-eyed and practically shimmering with anticipation, pulled suitcases and tightly rolled posters from minivans and waved goodbye to tearful family members, there were three among them who had already stepped up their educational game.
The Class of 2015’s David Boretti, Tamara Eichelberger and Amy Wagner are Elizabethtown College’s very first Stamps Scholars. The trio, due to their academic merit, strong leadership potential and exceptional character, were honored with scholarships that not only paid for their education but also offered a cash stipends to make it possible to more fully explore their educations and help leave their marks on E-town.
Each found a unique way to do just that.
Boretti, an engineering and history major who stepped onto campus already armed with AP credits, “is highly motivated,” said Jean Pretz, associate professor of psychology and director of E-town’s Stamps Program. Boretti remained ambitious at Elizabethtown, becoming involved with Called to Lead and as co-captain of the soccer team. “Soccer was a major part of his reason for coming here,” said Pretz of Boretti’s initial interest in the College.
Eichelberger, “a natural leader,” wasn’t satisfied with just academics and work as a College tour guide and mentor, said Pretz. The sociology-anthropology major started a Stamps Scholar Society so all E-town Scholars could connect to their peers.
And, Wagner, a chemistry major who “blossomed” during her time at the College, said Pretz, added to her academic and life experience by taking part in high-level research at Georgia Institute of Technology and viewing New Zealand from the bouncing end of a bungee.
Stamps Scholars, said Pretz, are change agents, go-getters. “You give them fuel for their fire and they run with it.”
The Stamps Family Charitable Foundation initiated the Scholarships in 2006 when, after creating merit scholarship programs at their alma maters, Penny and Roe Stamps realized the difference they’d had made in the lives of the recipients. The Stampses expanded their reach at the University of Miami in 2009 and, then, Barry University, Caltech, University of Florida, University of Illinois, UCLA and The University of Virginia in 2010.
The list has grown over the years to include more than 40 universities and colleges, including Elizabethtown, which has claimed 17 Stamps Scholars since Boretti, Eichelberger and Wagner stepped onto campus in 2011.
The national convention, held every other year, of Stamps Scholars has grown to around 500 students. But after 2015, that number will likely hold steady as Mr. and Mrs. Stamps have decided that, in lieu of adding more colleges, they’ll concentrate on adding innovations to the program instead. “He wants it to really mean something when a graduate puts Stamps Scholar on his or her resume,” said Pretz of the scholarship namesake.
The idea behind the scholarships is to support exceptional young achievers, selected for scholarship, leadership, service and innovation, to bring their dreams to fruition. The objective is to help them make meaningful advances toward their lifetime goals.
Mr. Stamps gets excited when a student decides they are going to be the best… whatever.
“When the students get the scholarship, there are no formal expectations,” said Pretz. “Simply, they are to make the most of their college experience.” But, she added, “Mr. Stamps gets excited when a student decides they are going to be the best… whatever.”
And, with Elizabethtown, he is quite impressed.
The first class of Stamps Scholars numbered three, but the average at Elizabethtown is five per year. “They are the best and the brightest,” Pretz noted. “Leaders of tomorrow.”
A distinguishing feature of the E-town Stamps program is, of course, purposeful life work. As the students try to discern what their vocation and calling is, “we advise them to use the enrichment funds to find out what is right for them,” explained Pretz.
The additional funding can be used for international travel, outdoor leadership programs, research, conferences and internships.
This May at Commencement, the first Stamps Scholars walked proudly across The Dell wearing the official achievement medallion. Later, they listened to Commencement speaker and provider of the scholarship Roe Stamps as he reminded them and their classmates to invest in themselves, make good decisions and work hard to be the best at whatever their passions deem.
Elizabethtown was the college that David Boretti “always wanted to attend” but, without the financial benefits of the Stamps Scholarship, he might not have had the opportunity, he said. “Elizabethtown was my top choice.”
Though the Scholarship was a “huge honor,” receiving it made him nervous. “I had no idea what to expect …,” he said of being among the first class of Elizabethtown Stamps Scholars. “It meant that I would need to be extremely hardworking over the next four years in order to prove my worth and to set a great precedent for future Stamps Scholars.”
He recalled receiving a card from Mr. and Mrs. Stamps in his first year that asked how he was doing, he said, still amazed that they took the time to connect with him.
Attending the biannual Stamps Scholars conferences at the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech were favorite Stamps-related activities. It gave Boretti the opportunity to meet other brilliant Stamps students from across the country, he said. “I will always have such an amazing network of fellow scholars around the nation that I can work with,” he said. “In addition, I know that I will have the support of my mentors and the Stamps Scholars Foundation if I ever need a helping hand.”
Boretti is working in the management development program of M&T Bank and plans to return for his graduate degree in a few years.
When Tamara Eichelberger was notified in 2011 that she was among Elizabethtown College’s first Stamps Scholars she said her excitement was not just about “an amazing scholarship to attend E-town” but also about receiving an enrichment fund that would make it possible to make more of her education.
“It helped me to make my final decision to attend E-town for my undergraduate degree,” Eichelberger said of the scholarship. It also made it possible for her to participate in a study abroad-trip in Germany and an archeological field school in Ireland, where she was able to experience bio-archaeology and was given the opportunity to excavate a juvenile burial site.
Following the experience, made possible by the Stamps Scholarship, Eichelberger decided to pursue bio-archaeology in graduate school. Post Commencement she is proud to have joined a growing network of Stamps Scholar alumni from around the country. “Two common themes that I have noticed among the Stamps Scholars at E-Town and at other schools is a desire to learn and to give back to others in some way,” she said. “Most Stamps Scholars want to make a difference, no matter if the difference affects only their own field or the whole world.”
Eichelberger now attends the human osteology and funerary archeology master’s program at University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. She said she would like to eventually earn her Ph.D. in anthropology to work in academia or at a museum.
Amy Wagner said she believes that, by recognizing her past achievements and future potential, the Stamps Scholarship sets her apart from other students.
Upon learning she was a recipient, prior to her first year at Elizabethtown, she immediately recognized the financial benefits but, she added, she was not prepared for how much prestige and recognition the Scholarship carried. “This ended up being a benefit to expand my network and meet scholars from many different backgrounds across the nation,” she said. And, as a Stamps Scholar, Wagner was offered the opportunity to conduct research in the chemistry department during her first summer at Elizabethtown. “That gave me a leg up when applying for research opportunities the following summer when I participated in the SURF program at Georgia Tech,” she noted.
Being a Stamps Scholar also meant that Wagner expected more of herself, leading her to push herself in her studies. It also helped her appreciate the concept of giving forward. “As a Stamps Scholar, I was … able to make the most out of my college career and, because of that, it is expected that I give back in the best way I can to improve the lives of those around me …”
This summer she worked at a remote lodge in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest; this fall she continues her studies at Florida International University to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry. She hopes to apply chemistry to environmental issues. “One possible avenue that I have considered is to work with a governmental agency like the EPA.”