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Mother’s Love Inspires Legacy for Learning

by Mardy Fones No Comment

Cows and crops dominated the area that is now Brentwood, Tenn. In the 1930s, the way of life was rural and times were hard. For a farm girl from Brentwood, attending the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt was a life-changing experience. When it changed Dorothy N. Niederhauser Wallman, BA’39, it started a legacy that continues changing lives today.

From left, Richard Wallman, BE’72, and Amy Wallman meet with scholars past and present Jessica Lewis, BA’03, EdD’07; junior Naila Wahid; and senior Bittu Majmudar.

From left, Richard Wallman, BE’72, and Amy Wallman meet with scholars past and present Jessica Lewis, BA’03, EdD’07; junior Naila Wahid; and senior Bittu Majmudar.

“Going to Vanderbilt gave my mother confidence and a sense of accomplishment. She was happy I went there,” says Richard Wallman, BE’72. “When I got into graduate school at the University of Chicago, she wasn’t nearly as impressed as when I enrolled at Vanderbilt.” 

Fred Niederhauser, Dorothy’s father, was a farmer who worked to send his four daughters to college. Sisters Helen Niederhauser Parker, ’40, Irma Louise Niederhauser Keisling, BA’41, and Freddie Ann Niederhauser Phillips, BA’51, all followed Richard’s mother, Dorothy, a French and English major, to the College of Arts and Science. 

“Richard’s mother would volunteer every year at registration,” says Richard’s wife, Amy Wallman,  formerly a partner with Ernst & Young. “Vanderbilt was the only school she ever talked about. She had a deep love for the institution.” 

In honor of her love, Amy and Richard established the Dorothy N. and Dick H. Wallman Scholarship. It now is the first of five, need-based, full-tuition scholarships for women in the College of Arts and Science endowed by the Wallmans.

“The scholarships are our way of making a difference in the lives of bright, motivated young women,” says Richard, former chief financial officer of Honeywell International and a new member of the Board of Visitors for the College of Arts and Science.

What a Difference

Jessica King Lewis, BA’03, EdD’07, was the first to receive a Wallman scholarship. “Without the undergraduate scholarship, it would have limited what I could have done in graduate school and maybe caused me to reconsider going at all,” says Lewis, who majored in Spanish and sociology in the College of Arts and Science. Currently a research associate with Peabody’s Center on Performance Incentives, she says she knows tuition debt can limit students’ options.

“If I hadn’t gotten the Wallman scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to go to Vanderbilt.”

~ Ashley Long, BA’06

The Wallmans do more than provide financial support, important as that is. “When I was an undergraduate, Mr. Wallman e-mailed me and wanted to hear how I was doing,” says former recipient Ashley Long, BA’06. “Sometimes, when things weren’t going well, getting a great e-mail from him gave me the encouragement I needed.”

Now a student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Long says the Wallmans have continued to be friends, supporters and encouragers. “If I hadn’t gotten the Wallman scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to go to Vanderbilt,” she says frankly.

The relationship between Wallman scholars and the donors is a strong one. As scholarship recipients are chosen, the couple connects with them, eager to hear about their studies, struggles and successes. Each year, Amy and Richard attend a luncheon with their Arts and Science scholars and hear about the young women’s achievements and evolving lives. 

Current scholarship recipient Bittu Majmudar values that connection. “I love the way the Wallmans care about their scholarship recipients,” the senior says. “It’s been a real bonus having the Wallmans on my side. I think of them as my second parents.” Majmudar says that without the scholarship, she would have gone to a state university. Today she’s majoring in neuroscience with dual minors in biology and psychology with the goal of becoming a physician.  

Worthwhile Investments

Amy and Richard Wallman say that when they were in graduate school, the financial aid they received was important to their ability to stay focused on academic success and on cultivating their professional lives. They have chosen to reciprocate by giving a leg up to young women who might otherwise be unable to attend Dorothy Wallman’s beloved institution.

“Even if you’re not in a position to endow a scholarship, just giving $1,000 or $500 can be a big help to a student who is struggling.”

~ Richard Wallman, BE’72

“Vanderbilt is a wonderful school,” Richard says. “I got a good education and learned how to solve problems there. The College of Arts and Science scholarships are our way of doing our part to help keep it a terrific school. Even if you’re not in a position to endow a scholarship, just giving $1,000 or $500 can be a big help to a student who is struggling. Any investment is worthwhile and the payout can be high.”

In 2004, Amy and Richard endowed the Cleo and Fred Niederhauser Scholarship to honor his maternal grandparents.

To commemorate Richard’s 35th Vanderbilt reunion, the couple is endowing three more scholarships in the College of Arts and Science: the Irma Louise Niederhauser and Claude J. Keisling Scholarship in memory of his aunt and uncle, the Eva and Henry Wallman Scholarship in memory of his paternal grandparents, and the Edith and Roy Witte Scholarship in memory of his great-aunt and great-uncle.

The Legacy Continues

The Wallmans say the scholarships pay off twofold. They enable students to receive an outstanding liberal arts education at a top university. At the same time, they create a legacy of generosity that encourages the recipients to also be generous with their time and money and to help others.

“Endowing scholarships is truly the gift that keeps on giving,” says Richard. “Every recipient has said how grateful they are, and that they want to give back when they have the means, whether it is money or volunteerism.”

Lewis concurs, but sees even more worth. “The value of the scholarship isn’t just the money, it’s also the relationship I’ve built with the Wallmans over the years,” the young researcher says. “They are a good reminder of why it’s important to give back. They’re busy, successful professionals. Yet they find the time and resources to help others. I’m looking forward to being at a point where I can help others in the same way the Wallmans have helped me.”

photo credit: John Russell

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