Rewarding Relationships: Scholarship Brings Donors and Student Together

From the fall 2017 issue of The Spirit of Washington University

During her first month at Washington University, Karoline “Ro” Baker, Class of 2019, received an email asking if she was interested in meeting with Deborah Beckmann Kotzubei, AB ’91, who was visiting campus with her son, Ben, now a member of the Class of 2020. As the recipient of the Deborah Beckmann Kotzubei and Jacob Kotzubei Scholarship, Ms. Baker jumped at the opportunity to express her gratitude.

After touring campus, Ms. Beckmann Kotzubei met Ms. Baker at the Danforth University Center. “She was so interested in me—who I was and what I wanted to do,” says Ms. Baker, an Arts & Sciences student majoring in anthropology and modern dance who plans to be a nurse. “It was like meeting a long-lost aunt I never knew I had.”

The first in her family to attend college, Ms. Baker says her father fell to his knees and cried when they learned she had been selected to receive the scholarship funded by Ms. Beckmann Kotzubei and her husband, Jacob. “Washington University was the only college I wanted to attend,” Ms. Baker says. “Without this scholarship, I don’t know if I could have afforded the tuition.”

Ms. Baker and Ms. Beckmann Kotzubei, a member of the Arts & Sciences National Council, stayed in touch through texts and email after their initial meeting. They met again at the Arts & Sciences scholarship dinner in fall 2015, and on Valentine’s Day, Ms. Baker received a care package from Ms. Beckmann Kotzubei, who knew she didn’t have plans that evening.

Ms. Beckmann Kotzubei says her relationship with Ms. Baker has expanded over the years to include earnest conversations about personal goals and priorities. “I love that Ro now feels comfortable enough to talk person-to-person with me. We have real conversations about topics like finding a career you’re passionate about.”

Mr. Kotzubei also has developed a relationship with Ms. Baker. “Getting to know Ro has been a joy,” he says. “It is deeply rewarding to give a talented student the opportunity to receive a first-rate education—especially a student as motivated and hard-working as Ro.”

Although Ms. Beckmann Kotzubei did not expect to meet the recipient of her annual scholarship, she says it has added meaning to her gift. “I remember eating a blueberry muffin almost every day outside of Eliot Hall when I was a student,” she says. “Knowing where Ro likes to eat breakfast or her favorite place to study makes me feel connected to the university.”

Supporting scholarships, Ms. Beckmann Kotzubei adds, allows her to play a role in transforming the life of an outstanding student. “A Washington University education can open so many doors. I want promising students like Ro to reap the benefits of this great institution, regardless of their means.”

—By MaryEllen VanDerHeyden


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Jacob Kotzubei and Deborah Beckmann Kotzubei have sponsored an annual scholarship in Arts & Sciences for Ro Baker, center, since 2015.