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Elaine Lindy Elaine Lindy
Frances and James J. MAGUIRE Frances and James J. MAGUIRE
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Roberta Scheller ’80

“We’re passionate about the Perelman Center for Jewish Life and believe it will play an important role at Drexel.”

It was higher education that first provided Roberta Scheller ’80 and her husband, Ernest, environments that were rich with opportunities to connect with Jewish life and culture. Mrs. Scheller came from one of a handful of Jewish families living in New Canaan, Connecticut, during her childhood years there in the 1930s and 40s. And the Jewish community was even fewer in number in the small Kentucky town where Mr. Scheller grew up. These formative experiences helped inspire Mrs. Scheller to make one of the earliest gifts to the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life.

“We really began getting involved with Jewish organizations in college,” Mrs. Scheller says. “That’s why we’re so passionate about the Perelman Center for Jewish Life and believe it will play an important role at Drexel.”

Mrs. Scheller’s generosity will be recognized with the naming of the Roberta R. Scheller Chapel and the Roberta R. Scheller Torah Ark in the new facility — the first at Drexel dedicated to Jewish student life. Scheduled to open in fall 2016, the Perelman Center for Jewish Life will house Hillel at the University and serve as the site for Shabbat services and dinners, Jewish education programs and programs facilitating opportunities in Israel. It is also intended to be a home-away-from-home where Jewish students, their friends and loved ones can socialize. The Perelman Center for Jewish Life is a critical initiative in the University’s efforts to become a greater school of choice for the region’s and the nation’s Jewish students.

Mrs. Scheller herself was drawn to Drexel by its top-tier interior design program, but her path to becoming an alumna took many twists and turns. After high school, she spent a few years attending other institutions but left, without a degree, to marry and start a family. She worked as an assistant editor at Condé Nast Publishing and later focused on raising her children. Once her youngest child left for college, though, Mrs. Scheller decided to revisit her long-held dream of completing her college education.

Living in Central Pennsylvania at the time, Mrs. Scheller drove more than two hours to come to class. After toiling late into the night, she sometimes had to convince the building superintendent to let her sleep in the teacher’s lounge. Despite the challenges, Mrs. Scheller fondly remembers the many hands-on experiences afforded by her Drexel education.

“I made furniture in a woodworking shop,” she recalls. “And we designed plans for actual lofts in the city and had to present our work before a board of architects.”

Unfortunately, an illness forced Mrs. Scheller to stop her studies again. But decades later, thanks to a fortuitous family connection with College of Medicine Dean Dr. Daniel Schidlow, she learned she had accumulated enough credits to qualify for a degree. In 2012 she finally received her diploma at a ceremony personally hosted by President John Fry.

“I think I was the oldest graduate that year,” she says with a smile.

Mrs. Scheller’s tenacity in becoming a college graduate is a testament to her commitment to education, which is where she and her husband primarily focus their philanthropy.

“It goes back to the old theory about teaching a man to fish,” she says. “We just feel education makes all the difference in how well people can live their lives.”

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July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014
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