Monday, May 25, 2015

The Cecils' Jandon Scholarships

 Don Cecil '47 (left) and his wife Jane sponsor the annual Jandon Scholarships for Westchester students (Jandon  Foundation photos)
It's graduation season. Always, that means graduates will scurry about to get to commencement on time, receive diplomas, leap high on stages and take dozens of photographs to post online.  It's also the season for rewards and scholarships.

That's where the Jandon Scholarships come in. For each graduation season the past 16 years, the Jandon Foundation has awarded about 15 scholarships to deserving students in Westchester, totaling $10-12,000 each.  This is one of many ways Don Cecil '47 and his wife Jane, Harrison residents, give back to the community, recognize achievement and encourage top Westchester students to keep the academic momentum going.

"Jandon" is an amalgam of "Jane" and "Don."  The scholarships are administered by Westchester County and awarded based on academic performance, need, and attendance at a Westchester public high school. Candidates apply in February. Scholarship winners are announced shortly after graduation season.

The scholarship program is one of many ways Cecil has served the Westchester community after an illustrious career on Wall Street.  He is a past recipient of the Yale Outstanding Service Award, granted by the YWAA board of directors to recognize admirable service to the towns, schools,  communities or other institutions in Westchester by Yale alumni residents. 

The list of Cecil's Westchester involvement is long and impressive.  He is or has been the chair of the Westchester County Board of Transportation, president of the White Plains Cage Teen Center, chair of the Friends of the Neuberger Art Museum in Purchase and vice chair of the Purchase College Foundation.  He and his wife Jane sponsor a "Writing Through the Arts" program at the Neuberger Museum.

"Don is a quiet but powerful leader who has had a huge impact on Westchester regional transportation and on support of education in many ways,"  YWAA past president and chair Merrell Clark '57 '70MAR said recently.  Cecil has contributed to and participated in YWAA events, as well. At Yale, he majored in applied economics.

The Jandon Scholarships followed from a previous program the Cecils sponsored.  In 1986, they adopted a class of sixth graders in Mount Vernon. They promised them that if they attended college they would contribute to their college tuition for all four years.  Of the 52 students in the class, 30 went to college and were helped by the Cecils as part of their "I Have a Dream" program.

That program eventually evolved into the 1999 formation of the broader scholarship program, open to qualified students at all Westchester public high schools.

"The thought of giving back has always been in both our minds because we've been very fortunate, both in the economic sense and family sense," Don Cecil said in 2010 when they received Purchase College's Nelson Rockefeller Award.  "That's the future of America, education," Jane Cecil, an alumnus of Smith College, added.  "We just want to help people get educated."

The "Writing Through Arts" program, founded in 1993, permits high-school students in Westchester to write about what inspires them on visits to the Neuberger Arts Museum. The students' teachers guide and instruct them.

In finance, Don Cecil was a founding partner of the private-equity firm Cumberland Associates, which manages over $1 billion in assets. Before Cumberland, he had been a senior vice president at Shearson Hammill (now part of Morgan Stanley) in institutional research and asset management. He was also a director and trustee of 43 Merrill Lynch mutual funds and director at Gray Advertising, Ward Foods and Columbus Dental. He is an adviser at Balfour Investors.

The Westchester Board of Legislators administers the Jandon Scholars Program. While in college, scholarship winners must meet certain academic requirements. Scholarships, recently increased from $10,000 to $12,000 for the four-year total, are funded for each year of college. The amount of the award steps up from freshman to senior year, providing an incentive for students to reach graduation.

Scholarship proceeds are given directly to student winners to avoid reductions in financial aid from the colleges they attend. (If the proceeds go directly to the school, most colleges will deduct that amount from financial aid.) A selection committee of community representativesand Jandon Foundation board members determines the winners.

Since 1999, over 155 students have received Jandon scholarships.  They also participate in networking events and receive support and advice from mentors, board members and the Cecils while in school.

Last July, 15 students received the scholarships.  They were recent graduates of White Plains, Peekskill, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Tuckahoe and Sleepy Hollow high schools.  The 2014 winners are now attending college at Pace, SUNY-Albany, Quinnipiac, SUNY-Stony Brook, Fordham, Adelphi, Clark, Syracuse, Wesleyan, Hofstra, Sienna, and Northeastern.

"I continue to be in awe at what these people have already done in spite of the obstacles they have faced," Don Cecil said when the 2014 scholarship winners were named.  "I can only imagine the great things they will do in the future."

The Cecils' children, Leslie and Alec, are also involved in administration and governance at the Jandon Foundation. Leslie, also a Smith graduate, is a Westchester resident.  Alec Cecil '78, who has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Columbia, majored in psychology at Yale.

Jandon Scholarship winners in recent years (above) attend several colleges in the Northeeast (Jandon Foundation photos)

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