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The Gift of Learning

Recent graduates of the Graham School’s Basic Program pay it forward.

Basic Program students standing together

Inspired by the camaraderie, intellectual growth, and reflection characterizing their four years in the Basic Program at the University of Chicago’s Graham School, a group of classmates joined together this summer to fund a full four-year scholarship intended to unlock learning and discovery for a future Basic Program student.

“I love that this further united us as a group,” recent Basic Program graduate Alexandra Inzer says. “Over the previous four years, we built relationships and expanded our respective worldviews through deep, engaged discussions centered around the Great Books. Our class gift recognizes these wonderful bonds and enables us to share the spirit of learning with others.”

Unique experience motivates unique gift

The Class of 2022 included the Basic Program’s first online cohort. Though separated by thousands of miles, members of the 13-student cohort use words like “cohesive” and “supportive” to describe their classmates. The group’s regular Saturday gatherings generated positive energy and compelled stimulating discussion at a time when lively connections were especially valuable given the shutdowns and stress ignited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My classmates made this a particularly special experience for me, and I felt myself always looking forward to Saturday,” alumnus Mary Coyne says.

During the broader Basic Program Class of 2022 graduation reception in June, the Saturday classmates huddled together and began discussing a class gift to commemorate their cohort’s collaboration and soon landed on the idea of funding a four-year scholarship to the Basic Program. Inzer and Coyne then worked with Graham leadership to finalize the details before contacting the other 11 members of their cohort to officially launch the effort on June 27.

Class of 2022 members Scott Anderson and his wife, Laura, were among the first to respond and contribute.

“Not only did we have a very close group that enjoyed being together for four years, but Laura and I also feel strongly that everyone should have access to the best learning about the greatest ideas that have shaped our culture,” Scott Anderson says.

A class with a purpose

Within a month of the gift’s launch, the Class of 2022 Basic Program Saturday Group Scholarship crossed the $5,000 mark and entered August less than 15 percent away from reaching its $6,000 goal.

“It’s beautiful others have such appreciation for how meaningful their experience in the program was personally and intellectually, and that they’re willing to open the doors to learning for a future Graham student,” Coyne says.

Inzer, meanwhile, hopes future Basic Program classes consider creating a similar gift.

“There are so many of us who want to further the cause and open these dynamic learning opportunities for others,” she says. “With a scholarship, we help ensure a broad range of perspectives are present in future Basic Program classes.”

The 2022 class gift continues a steady rise in philanthropy at Graham, where the number of supporters in the Graham Circle — individuals who provide at least $1,000 annually to the School’s mission of expanding lifelong learning — has nearly quadrupled year over year. Graham School Dean Seth Green says the class gift speaks to the commitment and generosity of Graham supporters.

“This class has graciously and selflessly opened the doors of the Basic Program to more learners,” Green says. “The experience this cohort had over the last four years and the bonds they formed speaks to the power of the Basic Program to expand our minds and to build community. I am thrilled more learners will have access to this transformative learning experience thanks to their generosity.”

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Daniel P. Smith

Freelance Writer

Daniel P. Smith is a freelance writer at the Graham School.

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