By Janelle Darst

UNI’s College of Humanities, Arts & Sciences recently received a generous gift from Richard Jourdan of Omaha, Nebraska.  Jourdan is the grandson of Dr. Louis Begeman, the first department head of Physics, who taught at UNI from 1899 till 1935.  The renovated UNI Physics Building was named Begeman Hall in 2007 to honor Dr. Begeman.

Jourdan gave a cash gift to create the new Jourdan Mentor Scholars Fund.

Jourdan has been a generous supporter of several scholarships and foundation funds at UNI in recent years, including the Begeman Scholarship Fund. It has been fifty years since his Uncle Myron, a son of Louis Begeman, started the Begeman scholarship fund.

Jourdan, who has an interest in chess, has been fascinated at how learning and playing chess has helped improve the academic performance of at-risk high school students.  He discussed these ideas with Cliff Chancey, head of the Department of Physics, and their discussions sparked the Jourdan Mentors Scholars Fund.  This new scholarship fund will adapt the peer-mentorship experience found in learning and playing chess to the learning experiences of first and second year students majoring in physics.  Jourdan’s fund will support physics students who would benefit academically from close work with a junior/senior peer mentor.  The uniqueness of this fund is that it will support both the new student as well as his or her student mentor.

“A challenge in physics is that our students sometimes lose their way, academically, because of poor study habits or because they are unaware of the support services available to them at UNI .  Physics is a challenging field of study, and even though graduates are very well paid, getting to graduation can seem like a steep hill for some of our new majors.   The Jourdan Mentors Scholars Fund will provide a student guide up the slope.  This will be a significant help in retaining talented students in the BS and BA programs,” said Chancey.

First year students will receive $3,000 per year, which can be renewed for a second year.  The mentors will receive $2,000 per year.

“Nothing works as well as peer to peer mentoring. Our hope is that some of the Jourdan scholarship students will themselves become mentors and thus complete the loop by using their experience to help other students,” said Chancey,

Jourdan also designated an estate gift that will be split evenly among the Begeman Fund for Excellence in Physics, the Begeman Scholarship Fund, and the Jourdan Mentor Scholars Fund.