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Compassion at Our Core

Community Responds to COVID-19 with Emergency Fund to Help Students in Need

Kristin Livingston

A commitment to students is inherent in any university mission, but the swift surge of support for the Emergency Assistance Fund in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic proved Bentley truly puts this value above all — now more than ever.

Housing. Meals. Emergency flights home.

“Like many of our peer institutions, as soon as this pandemic took hold, Bentley pivoted our fundraising priorities to meet very real, urgent and unanticipated expenses,” says Maureen Flores, vice president for University Advancement. “Adding a financial burden to the emotional upheaval of this crisis is just one more source of stress for our students.”

Life in the time of the coronavirus has been frightening and upending for us all, but particularly challenging for students who may not have basic support systems at home, like WiFi for remote learning, and who count on Bentley’s on-campus resources.

As soon as the idea of a hardship fund arose, President Alison Davis-Blake consulted with Board of Trustees Chairman Paul Condrin ’83, P ’19, ’22, who quickly reached out to his fellow trustees as well as trustees emeriti. The group created a $65,000 challenge that’s continuing to be matched by alumni, faculty, staff, friends and parents — current and former. To date, more than $120,000 has been raised.

Contribute to the newly renamed Student Hardship Fund

“We heard from board members who had been a part of guiding Bentley as far back as the 1980s,” Flores says. “Many of them have circled back to check on the progress of the fund and written notes of encouragement and support for our students, and sent their good wishes to the faculty and staff who were working to rapidly transition our campus community to something quite different than we had seen before.”

Of the 270 donors who have given to the fund to date, more than 100 are faculty and staff — giving Flores a pause of pride. “When I saw that, I thought: Wow,” she says. “That really brought home to me the commitment across this university’s staff and faculty to our students and their well-being.”

Andrew Shepardson never envisioned closing the academic year apart from his students. “Not in my wildest dreams,” he says, did he imagine a May without standing before a roaring crowd of a thousand cheering seniors. The vice president for student affairs and dean of students says, “Our students will tell you that Bentley becomes a second family for them.”

Hundreds of students in distress and displacement have called upon Shepardson and his team. Key to keeping the campus community together no matter the distance have been the Keep Learning and Bentley NEST (Navigate. Engage. Support. Together.) programs — with the help of the Emergency Assistance Fund.

“I’ve been in touch with colleagues at other institutions and they too have been working tirelessly on behalf of their students,” Shepardson says. “But I am proud of Bentley’s immediate response to provide the means for our students to overcome any obstacle in these unprecedented times. We are a community that genuinely cares for each other and quickly rallies in times of need. This fund proves that.”

Caring. Collaboration. Impact. Learn about Bentley’s Core Values

Kindness in crisis can be a rarity, making the personal impact feel that much more special. Flores and Shepardson have heard this over the years from countless scholarship students who simply wouldn’t be at Bentley without the generosity of a donor.

Both are grateful to the hundreds of donors who have stepped forward in this uncertain time, making Bentley students a priority.

“I am a true believer in the power of philanthropy as a driver of change and compassion in our world. It is fundamental to who I am,” says Flores. “My faith in the goodness of people when called to action was confirmed once again.”

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Andrew Shephardson
I am proud of Bentley’s immediate response to provide the means for our students to overcome any obstacle in these unprecedented times. We are a community that genuinely cares for each other and quickly rallies in times of need.
Andrew Shephardson
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students