Generations of Franklin & Marshall pre-health students will have more financial aid and wider opportunities outside the classroom, thanks to a significant new gift from Dr. Eric C. Rackow, a 1967 alumnus, and his wife, Dr. Sari J. Kaminsky. College President Daniel R. Porterfield announced the gift at F&M's first Common Hour of the new academic year Sept. 3.
The $1 million gift will be split evenly between two College priorities. The Rackow & Kaminsky Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide need-based scholarships to outstanding students, with preference given to those with a demonstrated interest in the sciences and the pre-health professions. The Rackow & Kaminsky Endowed Fellowship for Pre-Health Students has existed for more than a decade, and this new gift dramatically increases its value and impact. The Rackow & Kaminsky Fellowship will continue to offer students interested in the field the opportunity to enhance their classroom studies by applying for funds to support research projects, internships, community or service projects, or other educational studies.
Recipients of the endowed scholarship will enter F&M beginning in fall 2017. Students earning the fellowships are selected annually by a committee headed by the director of health professions advising and including faculty from the biology and chemistry departments.
Rackow has served on the College's Board of Trustees since 2010 and currently chairs the Board's Academic Affairs Committee. He also has been a Reunion volunteer, active with his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, and a member of Leadership Council. He has financially supported Franklin & Marshall and its pre-health students since 2000.
"This generous gift from Drs. Eric Rackow and Sari Kaminsky is impressive because it so clearly supports our two strategic priorities of student access and success," Porterfield said. "Franklin & Marshall has many donors who support scholarships to help bring outstanding students to the College. It has many others who support programs that will provide students with a richer campus experience. It's much more unusual for donors to support both efforts. Eric and Sari are committed to providing an outstanding liberal arts education for students from all backgrounds, while also doing everything possible to make those students successful."
Kirsten Kirby, director of health professions advising in the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development, noted that F&M students are beginning their medical school training this fall at such prestigious institutions as Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Our students and alumni continue to gain admission to top medical and other health professions schools because they are excellent communicators, critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, great collaborators, and lifelong learners," she said. "In my conversations with admissions deans, they share that F&M graduates are among their strongest students. In the past three years, well-prepared applicants from the College have earned acceptance to medical school at an 89 percent rate. This meaningful gift will enable our students to gain enriching experiences that will help them significantly as they work toward becoming the next generation of leaders in healthcare, following in the footsteps of Dr. Rackow and Dr. Kaminsky."
Keeping F&M 'Special'
Rackow, an expert in critical care and health delivery, is president and chief executive officer of Humana at Home and a professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. Kaminsky is chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City and professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at New York Medical College. They met when both were in medical school at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Rackow said he and Kaminsky every day see firsthand how important co-curricular activities are for the success of students in the health professions, and that was one of the reasons they wanted to endow the pre-health fellowship.
"Internships, independent research and community service are very important for students who want to go into medicine, nursing, public health, and related fields," he says. "First of all, they are valuable educational experiences in their own right; they enhance your education in the classroom. Second, those experiences help students better understand the field they're interested in; they're better informed about the challenges they face and the rewards that are involved. And third, they are a very valuable part of a student's application to medical school. Medical schools increasingly are emphasizing an applicant's ability to apply knowledge and work independently."
Rackow remembers fondly his undergraduate days at F&M, calling the College "a special place" where he not only interacted with great professors, but also had opportunities for leadership roles with other students, including as president of ZBT fraternity.
"I was interested in the sciences during high school and that was a big reason I applied to F&M," he recalls. "It had a tremendous pre-med program with a great reputation and record of sending graduates on to medical school, something it still has today. This academically rigorous, residential, liberal arts college certainly launched my career, but it did more than that. All the things I got to experience on campus—my discussions with faculty and fellow students—those were crucial to the person I am today."
"Being on the Board of Trustees and chairing the Academic Affairs Committee has confirmed the fact that F&M is special, but it's also given me a greater insight and a deeper understanding of the many challenges an outstanding liberal arts college faces today," he continues. "It takes a lot of effort to keep F&M as that special place I know, both now and in the future."
Rackow said he hopes the $1 million gift helps to do for future students at the College what the efforts of others helped to do for him. "I hope what Sari and I are doing provides greater access to an outstanding liberal arts education for more students and gives them a better chance for success, both while they are on campus and after they graduate. I hope it helps to launch rewarding careers and productive lives."