The gift that keeps on giving: Dahl leadership scholarship rewards Augustana’s scholars and co-curricular leaders

Gavin Nicoson

March 20 marks the application deadline for Augustana’s Dahl leadership scholarship. Open to juniors, this scholarship is different from many gift scholarships offered by the college, as it is offered through an endowed fund. Brinton Vincent, director of donor engagement and stewardship, said that endowments provide an advantage over traditional donations. 

“With annual scholarships, a donor is making a gift which is spent, and then it’s gone. When it’s an endowed fund, we get earnings every single year,” Vincent said.

These annual earnings are possible because endowed scholarships are funded indirectly, through interest rather than direct donation. In the case of the Dahl leadership scholarship, John A. Dahl (‘68) and Robert A. Dahl (‘74) provided an initial gift of $1.5 million in 2005 through their family’s charitable trust. 

Augustana’s Advancement Office said the Dahl family wanted to carry on their legacy of community service. Because of this inspiration, the Dahl leadership scholarship rewards juniors who have demonstrated leadership skills and personal growth within and outside of academics. 

“Augustana is looking to champion the great combination of academic excellence and co-curricular leadership and engagement outside of the classroom,” Wes Brooks, dean of students, said.

Given the nature of an endowed fund, the external market dictates the number of recipients and the gift amounts each year.

“The number of applicants varies year to year, but a typical pool might be anywhere from 40 to 75 applicants,” Brooks said. “The return on the investment annually allows for us to have either a larger or smaller pool of money towards scholarships.”

Even given fluctuations in market conditions, Vincent said that the Dahl family’s investment distributes “over $20,000 today.”

Students interested in more information regarding the Dahl family can turn to the advancement office. Augustana’s website also provides a news post titled, “Dahl Scholarship applications due March 20,” which clarifies that financial awards are available for multiple finalists, although only one student will be recognized officially. The post urges students to apply if they “feel they have made a difference in campus life.” Brooks advised that strong applications often share certain qualities.

“Many applicants that submit for the Dahl leadership scholarship are carrying GPAs over 3.85,” Brooks said. “There can be anywhere from three to eight distinct co-curricular engagements, and there’s a clear increase in responsibility as it relates to maybe as a first year student.”

A smaller prize pool and fewer applicants makes this scholarship fairly competitive. Winning applicants will have the opportunity to communicate their gratitude by writing thank you letters and attending an invite-only scholarship brunch on April 16. 

“A thank you note is a great way to connect with a donor and thank them for this gift that they made to the college,” Vincent said. “If it wasn’t for our donors, the cost of college would be much, much higher.”

The Dahl leadership scholarship is intended to promote leadership qualities in individual students, but their actions affect the campus community as well.

“I am so appreciative of so many students who create such an outstanding experience not only for themselves, but for others who attend and work in the same organizations,” Brooks said.

Juniors interested in applying should submit an application in the form of a resume and a written narrative describing their growth to [email protected] by March 20.