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Siren '96 & Jennifer Chudgar

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Providing a Foundation for the Future
January 2011

There are very few individuals who, upon graduation, immediately think of lifelong philanthropy as a path to further their relationship with their alma mater. For Siren Chudgar ’96, although it wasn’t immediate, it was early in his working career that he began to think of ways to give back to Clarkson.

Ever since he left Potsdam and entered the medical profession, Siren has been involved with Clarkson, be it on the alumni council or volunteering with the alumni admissions program both in Pennsylvania and now in the Capital District. It is this path, along with wife Jennifer’s strong belief in the value of a Clarkson education that has led them to establish the Siren ’96 and Jennifer Chudgar Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship will help attract deserving students to Clarkson so that they may have the same positive and life changing experience that Siren had. Below is an interview with Siren, Jennifer and Clarkson gift planning officer Bob Ahlfeld on the motivation for their gift and what they believe it will mean for the institution and for them.

Bob: Siren, how did philanthropy become an important part of your relationship with your alma mater?
Siren: I had a really good time at Clarkson. I think it’s important to give back to the school; it laid a great educational foundation that helped me tremendously in my career. Jenn and I want other students to have the same opportunity to attend a great school like Clarkson and get that same foundation for their future.

Bob: You’ve already been active as a volunteer and a donor at Clarkson for many years. Was that something you envisioned when you graduated?  Did you figure you would be creating a scholarship endowment at this point in time or did you grow into it?
Siren: I didn’t envision it at the time. I was working in Pittsburgh when Don Dangremond called and asked me to serve on the alumni council. I was interested and honored at the same time. A lot of my best friends are still at Clarkson or are alumni, so it’s a great opportunity to serve and reconnect with them.

Bob: This scholarship endowment is from both you and Jennifer. Jenn, I’ll ask you, how does this gift connect to the role that philanthropy plays in your life?
Jenn: I would not have been able to attend college without scholarship and grant support, so it’s very important to me to pass on something that I received so that future students could benefit from opportunities similar to mine.

Bob: This scholarship is for students from the Capital District. Siren, how did you decide that you could do this? Would you encourage others to consider similar gifts?
Siren:  I think that we all want to do something that’s good, and good for Clarkson, and it’s a matter of sitting down and figuring out a way to do it.  It’s not that it can’t be done, it can be done, but it may take a little time and creativity. We’ve pledged out our gifts to the endowment and the Clarkson Fund over the next three years to be able to do this, but I know that as an endowment, the scholarship creates a legacy for the rest of my life and even when I’m not here. I know that people will benefit from the endowment for generations to come.

BobI’ll ask Jenn this next question. What criteria are you thinking of for awarding this scholarship?
Jenn:  Anyone who attends Clarkson is already a very good student. We want our scholarship to be available to someone who doesn’t necessarily have the highest GPA, but also shows great potential for personal growth. We know that a lot of learning takes place outside of the classroom, and those experiences shape our adult lives. We want someone who will benefit most from those experiences.    

Bob:   Jenn, you’re not a Clarkson graduate, how has Clarkson touched your life?
Jenn: Even though I didn’t attend Clarkson, I met Siren when he was a senior at Clarkson. I feel very connected to the school because everyone has always taken me in as one of their own and made me feel at home.

BobSiren, what role will this scholarship endowment play in your life and for Clarkson?
Siren:  I think it’s important to give back in some way, shape or form.  This is our way of giving back.  Clarkson was a phenomenal 4-year experience.  My classmates and I got an excellent education, and as Jenn said, we really want future generations to have the opportunity for that same Clarkson experience and education. There are too many good students who don’t get enough financial aid and we’re hoping that now one additional student will have the opportunity to benefit from a Clarkson education.