Paying it Forward

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Wallin Scholars at Macalester

CATEGORY: Alumni, Student Life
TYPE: Photos, Articles

Magazine Cover
Published in Macalester Today

BY REBECCA DEJARLAIS ORTIZ ’06
PHOTO BY DAVID J. TURNER

A foundation started by Maxine Wallin ’48 and her late husband helps hundreds of Twin Cities kids pay for college

AS IS TRUE FOR MACALESTER ALUMNI from many eras, Maxine Wallin ’48 has among her most cherished memories those late-night college dorm conversations with friends. Seven decades ago—over Cokes from the new vending machines and cheese cooled on Wallace Hall windowsills—the young women of Macalester discussed Brave New World, the Nuremberg Trials, and the newly formed United Nations until lights out. For Wallin, those debates—and the intellectual curiosity they fostered—are just as memorable a part of college as any classes she took.

Now, many years later, Wallin and her late husband, Win, have helped thousands of Twin Cities students access formative educational experiences all their own. The Wallin Education Partners has provided college scholarships for more than 3,300 students with financial need since 1992, when it supported its first students at Win’s alma mater, Minneapolis South High School. In the 22 years since, the Wallin scholarship program has expanded to support students from more than two dozen Twin Cities area high schools, a growth funded by corporations, foundations, and individual donors. Most scholarship recipients are first-generation college students.

For Matt Dehler ’14 (Ramsey, Minn.), the Wallin scholarship expanded his options in a life-changing way. “I’m in college because of this program,” says Dehler, one of 12 current Macalester students who receive Wallin support. “The only reason I knew I could attend Mac was because of this opportunity.”

For a college like Macalester, which promises to meet the full financial need of each admitted student, outside scholarship programs provide additional important assistance, says financial aid director Brian Lindeman ’89. “Macalester does a lot, but our resources aren’t unlimited. We need the help of generous benefactors like the Wallin Education Partners.”

Although the Wallin program provides each student up to $16,000 over four years, its support extends beyond the financial. Throughout college, scholarship recipients work with a professional advisor who helps them assess their needs and learn to advocate for themselves. As Dehler prepares to graduate, the music major is regularly communicating with his Wallin advisor, seeking advice and perspective on his capstone research and post-Macalester plans.

Thanks in part to that support structure, Wallin students across their various colleges have a six-year graduation rate of 75 percent. Those numbers show the program’s impact, says President Brian Rosenberg, who serves on Wallin’s board: “The program addresses what is arguably the greatest social and economic need in Minnesota: to provide higher education to students who, by virtue of their economic situation, would otherwise be at a disadvantage when it comes to completing college.”

Decades have passed since Win and Maxine first began dreaming of a scholarship program, but those students with financial need are just who they had in mind. After Win served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps, he could only afford college because of the GI Bill. “We realized there were other people in his situation who didn’t have any government assistance to attend college,” Maxine says. “There are a lot of young people now who need help to go on to school.”

Win met Maxine at the University of Minnesota, where she had finished her degree in international relations and added a graduate degree in library science. He went on to have a long career as an executive at both Pillsbury and Medtronic, playing a leadership role in shaping both corporations. He died in December 2010.

Seventy years after staying up late in Wallace Hall, Maxine continues to be a lifelong learner. She’s an avid traveler (she studied French and Spanish at Macalester and the college’s Mexican Caravan program launched her international travel) and a voracious reader, keeps up with current events, and is a big fan of both Antiques Roadshow and Downton Abbey. She reads all the scholarship recipients’ files and meets many of them at their colleges, including some at Macalester’s annual luncheon.

Dehler attended his last Wallin luncheon this winter, this time as the student speaker. As he nears graduation, he’s taking stock of the opportunities that shaped his four years at Macalester—singing in the concert choir, DJing at WMCN, taking part in student government— and most importantly, the staff and faculty members who influenced him so greatly that he’s considering a career in student affairs. “I am who I am today because of the relationships I’ve formed at Macalester,” he says. “The Wallin program is the reason I’m here and the reason I’m getting these opportunities. It’s a huge, amazing honor.”

PUBLISHED: 04/29/2014