The Bengiers: students and scholarship donors
June 8, 2004
Most college students are strapped for cash and always looking for creative ways to make ends meet, but not Gary and Cynthia Bengier. Instead they are rewarding cash-strapped students.
The Bengiers, both retired professionals, have chosen to spend a significant amount of their time and money at SFSU, by taking classes and contributing to the college careers of their fellow Gators by donating $25,000 to the University Scholarship Program for the second consecutive year.
The money will be awarded to 25 sophomores and juniors, each of whom will receive $1,000 to cover colleges costs.
The Bengiers, both in their 40s, established the undergraduate scholarships in 2003 in response to the economic recession in California. Their generous donations continued this year as the state's budget crisis impacts college students especially those in the California State University system.
"This year with the budget crisis a lot of educational fees went up, so we felt it was important to make the scholarship money available again in 2004," said Cynthia Bengier, a former vice president of Wells Fargo Bank. "We want to motivate people who have made a big commitment to their education to stay in school."
Husband Gary Bengier echoed Cynthia's point. "We think there's a crisis in the CSU. The system has been given the choice to either raise tuition or cut entire programs; this is really a time for alumni to step forward and contribute."
Gary and Cynthia Bengier live in San Francisco's Sea Cliff neighborhood. One of the ways they keep busy during retirement is by taking classes at SFSU.
Gary Bengier, former chief financial officer and senior vice president of eBay, is enrolled in physics and astronomy and Cynthia Bengier, who graduated from SFSU in 1978 with a marketing degree, is back on campus and taking a class on Greek mythology.
They are also avid travelers who recently returned from Europe and plan to travel to Russia to explore the Baltic.
After last year's scholarships were handed out, the Bengiers received thank-you notes from recipients.
"My Bengier scholarship really helped me out with paying for housing," said Japanese major Richard Comegys. "I'm originally from Maryland so I can't just go home and live with my parents."
Bengier scholarship recipient Alyssa Morrisey used her scholarship money to spend a year studying in the United Kingdom. A creative writing major, Morrisey said the scholarship was a tremendous help during her time studying abroad.
"Had I not received the extra aid from the scholarship, I would not have been able to take advantage of many of the travel opportunities that studying in the UK poses," said Morrisey. "I spent the money from the Bengier's scholarship on books and supplies, as well as on my travels through Europe. I find this to be an extremely important part of my international education that I should not pass up, and I am very grateful to the Bengiers for giving me this opportunity."
Gary Bengier said the notes allowed him to see the genuine need for financial support.
"In many cases these scholarships were allowing people to attend school that semester."
For more scholarship opportunities for SFSU students, contact Beverly Voloshin, faculty coordinator for academic honors and scholarships, at (415) 338-7461 or the Office of Student Financial Aid at (415) 338-7000.
-- Student Writer Elizabeth Davis with Matt Itelson