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The Faces Behind the Names

Posted: November 9, 2012

Frank meets the faces behind the name of the scholarship he received at this year's College of Ag Sciences Scholarship Banquet.
Heidi Musshafen, fellow ERM major, served as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the College of Ag Sciences Scholarship Banquet

Heidi Musshafen, fellow ERM major, served as the Mistress of Ceremonies for the College of Ag Sciences Scholarship Banquet

On October 25, 2012, the College of Ag Sciences hosted its annual scholarship banquet, and thanks to the generosity of some good people out there, I was fortunate enough to attend as a scholarship recipient.

This summer I received an unexpected letter from the college congratulating me on earning the Sara L. Ristey Memorial Scholarship. At the annual scholarship banquet, I was going to meet and have dinner with these kind donors! I was a little nervous about it: what if they didn’t like me, or I couldn’t think of enough things to say?

I went early to the banquet to act as a greeter for the donors. As chance would have it, the first person to come to my door had a name tag that read “Dr. William J. Ristey” and was followed by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Ristey. I was excited and surprised to see them in person, let alone first at my door. I introduced myself as one of their scholarship recipients.

Dr. Ristey reacted warmly and within five minutes of talking, we were already joking around with each other. I was no longer nervous. The dinner was fantastic (especially when compared to my typical apartment-made “specialties”), and I met the other Ristey scholarship recipient, Jayne Ulrich, also an ERM major, and ended up having a great time with her and the Ristey family.

What struck me most about Dr. Ristey was how he defied all my preconceptions of what a scholarship donor would be like. Rather than interrogating me about classes, grades, internships, and whatnot, he asked me about myself: my interests, my hometown, Penn State football. And except when I asked him about his career and such, he avoided the topic. Instead, he told me about his family, his hobbies and experiences—things I would talk about with a friend. I even found out he lives just half an hour away from me!

The ceremonies were sincere and well done, especially our sad farewell to our long-standing dean, Bruce McPheron, but the connection I shared with Dr. Ristey and his wife was the most valuable part of that banquet for me. When we finally said goodbye, he stopped me and said, “Please write to me at some point. I’d really like to hear what you’re up to, and if there’s any way I can help you, you can be sure I will.”

I know I’m not alone in experiences like this, and I think it comes down to the fact that Ag Sciences isn’t a thing, it’s people—good people. And with the hundreds of donors and recipients at that ceremony, I’m well assured that the future is bright for this college.

--Frank