After donating $5 million to the University last February for need-based scholarships, University alums Judy and Fred Wilpon will soon get to meet the 15 students who will initially benefit from their gift.

The Wilpons’ donation, which created the first class of Irene and Morris B. Kessler Presidential Scholars in honor of Judy’s parents, was matched through University President Mary Sue Coleman’s Donor Challenge, bringing the total to $10 million.

According to the gift agreement for the Kessler Scholarship, first priority will be given to “undergraduates who experience an adverse change in their financial circumstances after enrollment in the College of LSA.”

Tomorrow afternoon, the Kessler Scholars will be introduced at a reception held by LSA before a dinner at the Presidential Residence.

The Kessler Scholars program is expected to expand in the next few years to provide for more than 75 students, which would make it LSA’s the largest scholarship program.

Fred Wilpon, chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Mets and co-founder and chairman of the Board of Sterling Equities, said he wanted to give back to the University because he himself was a scholarship recipient.

Wilpon received a scholarship to play baseball at the University before a rotator cuff injury ended his athletic career. But due to the hard work of Ray Fisher, the Michigan baseball coach at the time, Wilpon was able to stay at the University by a scholarship made available to him.

The scholarship fund was created to help students who “are very qualified academically” but who can’t afford to attend the University, he said.

“The main reason is to help preserving students who qualify for Michigan either to stay at Michigan or to attend,” he said. “We wanted to help those students go to Michigan and have the Michigan experience, and use the tools they learn at Michigan to impact the world.”

Wilpon said he’s excited to finally meet the students who benefit from his and his wife’s scholarship fund.

“This is something special,” he said. “This is the bottom line of where you change lives and where people have an opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

In a press release from the University, a student who was awarded the scholarship was quoted saying, “Because this scholarship truly has made such a dramatic impact on the direction of my academic and professional life, I have been inspired through the Wilpons’ generosity to make giving back to students like myself a prime goal.”

In February 2007, the University announced that Wilpon also donated $5 million to the University to build a sport injury prevention center, and another $4 million to the renovations of baseball and softball complex that now bears his name.

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