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Susan and Robert Payne
Susan and Robert Payne are not Western Connecticut State University alumni. So why did they establish a scholarship here?
Susan, with free time after her retirement, felt that her education had lacked in mathematics. Eager to learn more about one of her favorite subjects, she enrolled
at WCSU as a math major. Struck by how rigorous, challenging and rewarding the classes were, Susan worked diligently, learned new things and made friends with her professors and fellow hardworking students.
Years later when the Paynes searched for local, high- quality and effective charities, they remembered WCSU. After busy, fruitful careers, launching two daughters successfully into the world and settling comfortably in Western Connecticut, the Paynes looked for ways to give back to their community. “We want to help young people graduate without debt,” Robert said. “The way our own daughters were able to do.”
Susan knew first-hand that many WCSU students are the first generation in their families to attend college and must work their way through school to support themselves, and often their families as well. The Paynes designed a way to provide a change in opportunity for focused, committed students.
Established in 2015, the Payne Scholarship was first awarded to an incoming freshman majoring in math or computer science, who demonstrated high potential and financial need. It favors students who have little or no access to financial help other than loans and who need to work to support family or other dependents.
In 2017, thePaynes expanded the scholarship to include all STEM majors, and it is now awarded to two recipients for three years each, starting with students’ sophomore year.
Payne Scholar and honors student Karim Naba’20 is a math major who dreams of eventually getting his Ph.D. in theoretical mathematics. In addition to his schoolwork, Naba works seven part-time tutoring and teaching jobs to pay for his education and also to support his family. “The Payne Scholarship allows me to work less so I can focus on my studies,” Naba said. “It makes me more financially stable and it also allows me some time to myself. It’s taken a big toll of stress off my shoulders, and for this I am very grateful.”
“We’re really pleased with how things are going,” Susan said. “Our aim is to provide a lifelong advantage — a lucky break. Our students don’t have a lot of support to survive and prosper. They don’t take college for granted. With our support, struggling kids will have less struggle.”
Sarah McVeigh, ’20, also an honors student, studies nursing at WCSU’s top-rated program. Like Naba, McVeigh is a first-generation college student. She plans to go on for her APRN with an interest in psychiatricmedicine. “I cannot express how grateful I am for this generous scholarship,” McVeigh said. “With the safety net the Paynes have given me, I am able to become the nurse I’m meant to be.”
The Paynes remain deeply committed to local giving and to education. “Most people would like to give to their community,” Robert pointed out. “But they just don’t think of it. WCSU is local, and it serves a universal need — it’s a worthy organization that attracts admirable kids and gives an outstanding education. We feel lucky that it is right at our door.”