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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.