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A Friendship that Inspires Giving Back

By Elizabeth Neville

Rick Davis at CNN

Rick Davis, SPA '74.

One of the original employees of CNN, Rick Davis, SPA ’74, has spent his career in the journalism field. This past fall, he was inspired to help AU students who are following the same path. Working with the School of Communication, Davis established the Nick Charles Scholarship to honor his friend and legendary sportscaster, and increase diversity in the newsroom by supporting students of color who need financial assistance pursuing a career in journalism. You can join Davis and help diverse journalism students by supporting this scholarship fund.


From AU to CNN

After graduation, Davis knew he wanted to be a journalist but with a degree in government, he thought his path was uncertain. Through an AU connection, Davis took a job as a stats taker for DC’s NBA team, known at the time as the Washington Bullets. While making only $15 a game, he met all the sportscasters in town. Realizing they had a short window to create the day’s highlights reel in time for the 11 o’clock news, Davis entrepreneurially seized the opportunity to make himself known. 

“I started calling them after the games, giving them the best stats from each game – the plays, the dunks for the highlights package,” Davis explained. As he got to know the sportscasters, over the phone and at the games, he began inquiring about openings at their stations. He got the break he needed when Nick Charles from WRC-TV told him about an opening there. And so with Charles’ help, he got the interview – and at age 25, Davis landed his first journalism job just down the street from AU at WRC.

Nick Charles and Rick Davis, SPA '74

Nick Charles and Rick Davis, SPA '74.

Starting as a part time, entry level production assistant, Davis put in long hours and eventually made his way up the ranks, working with Charles in the sports department and then as an assignment editor. In 1980, Ted Turner envisioned the first ever, 24 hour news channel and Charles was recruited as CNN’s first sports anchor. When the time came to hire the executive producer, Charles recommended Davis. 

Davis joined his friend Charles at CNN for its launch. They drove down together from Washington in late April 1980 and only five weeks later, Davis was the executive producer for the second hour of CNN on Sunday, June 1, 1980 with Charles co-anchoring that night’s CNN Sports Sunday program. After 35 years, Davis is still at CNN, serving as the executive vice president of news standards and practices where he ensures news gathering is fair, accurate, and responsible. 


A Life Changing Friendship 


Nick Charles and Rick Davis, SPA '74

Nick Charles and Rick Davis, SPA '74.

There are pivotal moments, and pivotal people in our lives that alter our paths forever. Davis attributes his career at CNN to Charles. They worked together for another seven years on CNN’s sports news programs. Charles, who passed away after a battle with cancer in 2011, was beloved by those who worked around him. Davis remembers, 

“Everyone – men, women, old, young – loved this man. He treated everyone the same. He taught me so much at WRC. I would see him light up smiles for the cleaning staff, the cafeteria woman, the security guard at the front desk. He was the star but he treated everyone around him like they were the general manager.” 

Due to Charles’ significant impact on Davis’ life, and in memory of his universally kind demeanor, Davis chose to honor Charles with a scholarship in his name. Charles, of Greek-Italian ancestry, who grew up on the south side of Chicago and drove a cab to pay for his college education, was an inspiration to Davis. The Nick Charles Scholarship aims to increase diversity in newsrooms by supporting AU students of color who have financial need and are pursuing a journalism degree in the School of Communication.  


Giving Back to AU

Davis was inspired to support AU because as an alumnus, he is “very proud of AU’s growth and development as a major selective university.” Impressed by the journalism program and the advancement of the campus, faculty, and student accomplishments, Davis decided he wanted to give back. 

To Davis, AU offered opportunities beyond the classroom. It was at AU, on his freshman year hall, that Davis made friends he’s stayed in touch with for the past 46 years. 

Giving means much to Davis, as he shared,

“I’m a very fortunate guy. Wonderful family, terrific friends, a career that’s gone way better than I ever imagined. It has enabled me to be a witness to the greatest sporting and political events, to travel around the globe and meet world leaders. I’m a two-time cancer survivor. Giving, to me, is easy. I have a lot to be grateful for. This is my way of saying thanks. I want to help some people who aren’t as fortunate as I was.” 



If you would like to support diverse students entering the journalism field by giving a gift to the Nick Charles Scholarship, please contact Phil Recchio at 202-885-6611 or, or you can always make your gift online.

Mawal A. Sidi, SOC '18

The inaugural recipient of the Nick Charles Scholarships is Mawal Sidi, SOC '18. Sidi is studying broadcast journalism with a minor in international relations. She greatly appreciates this scholarship support and echoes Davis' spirit of giving back, "I believe as one becomes successful they mustn't forget others, because true success is never achieved alone. Someone had to believe in your dreams and encourage you to chase them."


2016 Celebration of Scholarships Highlights the Impact of Philanthropy

By Elizabeth Neville

Dr. Fanta Aw at the 2016 Celebration of Scholarships

Fanta Aw, Kogod ’90, SPA/MA ’94, CAS/PhD ’11, at the 2016 Celebration of Scholarships. Photo by Jeff Watts.

Each spring, American University pauses to honor the achievements of our students and the powerful investment that scholarship donors have made in their future. On March 16, 200 students, donors, faculty, and AU leadership gathered for this purpose at the 19th annual Celebration of Scholarships Luncheon. This year’s program featured a three-time alumna donor, a student who made his way to Washington from a tiny island, and an operatic example of philanthropy in action.

Fanta Aw, Kogod ’90, SPA/MA ’94, CAS/PhD ’11, assistant vice president of Campus Life and Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, has a deep connection to scholarships at AU – professionally, she works closely on the administration of scholarships, and personally, she philanthropically supports a number of these funds. 

Dr. Aw was recognized for her tremendous commitment to helping students embrace life at AU while ensuring they have the scholarship support they need. She feels strongly that “scholarships mean opening doors of opportunities for students to leverage the full AU experience.” 

Toby McCarroll, CAS ’16, is one of the many students impacted by Dr. Aw’s work. Recipient of the Ernest M. Aiken Educational Scholarship, the Dorothy Gondos Beers Scholarship, and the Barbara Bohn Wright Memorial Scholarship, Toby was invited share how scholarships have shaped his life. He spoke about his experience at AU, 

“For a boy born and raised on an island 21 miles long and 7 miles wide in the Bahamas, being here [at AU] has been an eye opening experience. I have had the ability to immerse myself in different cultures, expand my understanding of worldly issues, and debate various political views and ideologies.”

Toby credits philanthropy as the critical key that allowed him to attend AU. He remarked to the crowd, “the only way I have been able to enjoy all the rights and privileges of being an American University student… is through the generous help from you, the donors.”

Dr. Aw shared, “when we support scholarship programs, we are investing in our collective future and ensuring that students with great promise are able to live out their full potential.” 

Following the impassioned remarks, Charlotte Bergmann, SOC ’16, performed the aria “Lilacs” of the opus 21 set composed by Segei Rachmaninov in 1902. She has been a member of the AU Chamber Singers since the fall of 2012 and is the recipient of the Margery Kraus Scholarship for the Study of Global Communications and Public Affairs, as well as the Music Scholarship. 

Scholarships at AU open doors to new experiences, greater opportunities, and freedom to pursue passions. They forever change their recipients, allowing students to grow in ways they may have believed to be impossible before. The effect scholarships make in the lives of AU students ripples through their families, their communities, and the world. 

Scholarship funds provide resources that help change the lives of AU students, making tuition assistance available based on both need and merit. The annual Celebration of Scholarships luncheon brings together recipients of donor-funded scholarships and their donors to express gratitude for their generosity.


Honoring the Legacy of Dotty Lynch

By Elizabeth Neville

Morgan Downey and friends at the reception for the Dotty Lynch Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Morgan Downey and friends at the reception honoring Dotty Lynch. Photo by AU staff.

On May 20, 2015, colleagues, students, and family of Dotty Lynch gathered in the McKinley Building to celebrate and honor the professor’s remarkable legacy at American University. 

Professor Lynch, a journalist and pollster who infused students with a love of politics and the political process, passed away in 2014. She left a great legacy of work in political communications and inspired many of her students. Lynch was a pioneer in her field as the first woman chief polltaker for a presidential campaign. She served two decades as the CBS News senior political editor and was a member of CBS News and New York Times polling consortium. 

In addition to her remarkable career accomplishments, one of Dotty’s greatest joys was working with her students and exposing them to the political industry in Washington, DC. At American University, as executive in residence, she shepherded the development of the joint master of arts in political communication in the School of Communication and School of Public Affairs. 

At the May 20 gathering, a video honoring the life and accomplishments of Lynch was presented.

Molly O’Rourke, the current co-director of the Political Communication program, followed the video by saying,

“The power of that video is the students’ tributes to Dotty and the role she played in shaping their career goals and really their lives. And that’s what this event and this scholarship is all about—paying tribute to Dotty in a way that puts the focus very much on the students.”

One of Lynch’s former students, Rachel Coyle, SOC-SPA/MA '15, experienced first-hand Lynch’s commitment to her students. During her remarks, she shared that Lynch not only helped to influence her decision to join the Political Communication program, but she also made it her personal mission to ensure that Rachel had the funding that she needed to pursue her degree at AU and professional ambitions. During her remarks, Rachel said,

“I think a scholarship is the perfect way to honor Dotty’s memory. She worked so hard to secure funding for students who wouldn't have been able to attend AU otherwise. Now it's like she gets to continue doing that for years to come. I think that would have meant so much to her.”

Lynch’s husband, Morgan Downey, along with the gifts from family, friends, and colleagues established the Dotty Lynch Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor her memory and support AU students. At this week’s reception celebrating Lynch, Morgan remarked,

"We have over $75,000 in the bank and over 85 individuals donated. I only had to ask people and this was such a natural expression.”

This fall, the first scholarship will be awarded to an outstanding graduate student with financial need who exemplifies Lynch’s passion for politics, journalism, and ethics, while embracing her commitment to excellence in the field. 

Thanks to the generous support from those who knew Lynch, her great impact on the field of political communications will continue to be felt far into the future as her students pursue their own careers, inspired by her passion and teaching. 

If you would like to make a gift to honor Professor Lynch’s memory and support a deserving student, please visit:


Inspiration and Passion Highlighted at Celebration of Scholarships

By Elizabeth Neville

Prof. Christopher Palmer speaking at the 2015 Celebration of Scholarships

Chris Palmer speaking to the audience at the 2015 Celebration of Scholarships. Photo by Jeff Watts.

On March 18, 2015, nearly 200 students and donors celebrated philanthropy and the many accomplishments of American University students at the 18th Annual Celebration of Scholarships. Each year, the luncheon brings together donor-funded scholarship recipients and their donors to share in the joy of giving and the opportunity created through education. 

Chris Palmer, Distinguished Film Producer in Residence in the School of Communications and donor of the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship, spoke to a the assembled students and donors, about why he was inspired to create a scholarship,

“My whole life I’ve overestimated my own achievements in comparison to what I owe to other people, and my parents are a prime example of this. It is only now that they are gone do I regret that I never properly thanked them for all the help they gave me. They taught me to strive to do my best, to not give up when I failed, and they often reminded me not to get too big for my britches.”

With his wife Gail, Chris Palmer established the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship to honor his parents and help inspire a new generation of environmental and wildlife filmmakers, just as his parents helped inspire him. 

The 2014-2015 recipients of the Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship are Vanina J. Harel, SOC/MFA ’16, Marilyn L. Stone, SOC/MA ’15, R. Jamey Warner, SOC/MFA ’16, and Nick J. Zachar, SOC/MFA’16. Professor Palmer said,

“These four Scholarship recipients—Vanina, Marilyn, Jamey, and Nick—have realized something that when I was their age, I was too immature to realize, namely that success is the satisfaction of working passionately for a cause you care deeply about and which is bigger than you are.”

The scholarship has indeed inspired these AU students to work hard, and as Jamey Warner explained to the crowd,

“I’d like to think that when I look back on my life, it would read like a book. Perhaps not a best seller, but certainly in the form of chapters. Going back to school here at American University to pursue the skills necessary to become a successful filmmaker and storyteller has been critical in my transition from reconnaissance platoon commander and intelligence officer to the next chapter of my life. You see I’m confident this chapter will be a fantastic one because as my mother taught me, I have identified a passion and worthy endeavor and will do whatever it takes to see to its success.”

Through the generosity of Chris Palmer and the many other donors who choose to make scholarship gifts, hundreds of American University students are able to pursue their passions each year. 

Scholarship funds provide resources that help change the lives of AU students, making tuition assistance available based on both need and merit. The annual Celebration of Scholarships luncheon brings together recipients of donor-funded scholarships and their donors to express gratitude for their generosity.


A Lifelong Educator’s Legacy Highlights Celebration of Scholarships

By Mike Rowan

Clara Londoner at the 2014 Celebration of Scholarships

Clara Londoner shares a glance with her inaugural scholarship recipient, Diane Folliet, during her remarks at the Celebration of Scholarships. Photo by Jeff Watts.

“My arrival at AU was a very different journey than most young college students,” Clara Londoner, CAS/BA ’63, told attendees at the 2014 Celebration of Scholarships luncheon.

Londoner understands how far an extra show of support can go. At the age of 10, after falling below grade level on several subjects at school, she was diagnosed with a vague learning disability, which she called a “word problem” (understood today as dyslexia). Aided by dedicated attention from her classroom teacher, Londoner was able to catch up with her classmates, and continue to succeed in her education. In 1959, she was accepted into the freshman class at American University.

Overcoming adversity in her own studies fueled a passion for teaching in Londoner, which was further nurtured during her time on campus, as she earned her degree in elementary education. After graduating, she embarked on a lifelong commitment to teaching, including many years with special education students. “I do not believe that I could have done all that I did without the motivation and inspiration that I received from the exceptional professors at American University,” remarked Londoner.

In recent years, with the approach of her 50th college reunion, and the passing of her husband, David, Londoner began to consider how she might leave a lasting impact at her alma mater.

“Both David and I always believed the most valuable gift you can give a child is an education. We all agreed that David’s legacy should be used to start a scholarship to be awarded each year to a deserving student in the field of special education,” said Londoner.

Working with the College of Arts and Sciences, she established the Clara F. Londoner and David J. Londoner Scholarship. Now fully endowed, the award provides financial assistance to students who demonstrate a dedication to the field of special education, and in particular, art integration and a commitment to teaching a diverse K-12 student body.

For the scholarship’s inaugural recipient, Diane Folliet, the support came at just the right time. “I was starting to doubt myself,” she admitted to the assembled donors and students.

After a summer in France caring for her ailing grandparents, Folliet returned to the states for school, far from her family and saddled with loans. In mid-October, the good news of scholarship aid came from the School of Education, Teaching, and Health (SETH). Easing the financial burden came as a relief, but meeting her scholarship donor at the following week’s President’s Circle Dinner touched something deeper in Folliet.

“I almost didn’t go to the dinner, because while I was getting ready, my father called me to tell me that my grandfather had just passed away earlier that day,” Folliet shared. “[But] I’m very grateful for going and meeting this extraordinary woman...that evening I received an unforgettable gift. Clara, you’re that gift.”

As Folliet expressed her gratitude for her own experience, she reminded donors of the impact that such a personal connection brings. “The monetary support you give us isn’t the real value of our scholarship – it’s the recognition of our efforts.”

True to form of an aspiring educator, Folliet had a lesson to impart to her fellow students. “I hope that you will one day come back here, not as a recipient, but as a scholarship donor yourself.”

Scholarship funds provide resources that help change the lives of AU students, making tuition assistance available based on both need and merit. The annual Celebration of Scholarships luncheon brings together recipients of donor-funded scholarships and their donors to express gratitude for their generosity.