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Inspired by Family
New GW Parents Endow The Shantilal P. Patel Scholarship at the Columbian College
September 30, 2010
Kalpesh and Shefali Patel became new members of the George Washington community this fall when their son became a freshman at GW, but it didn’t take long for them to reach out to help support their new extended family.
Wanting other bright, capable students to have the same opportunities as their son, the Patels made a $100,000 gift in support of the GW Power & Promise Fund for student aid to endow The Shantilal P. Patel Scholarship.
The Patels chose to name the scholarship after Kalpesh’s Father, Shantilal P. Patel, who was not able to pursue his educational aspirations as a young man due to financial limitations. "We dedicated this gift to him because we feel a scholarship can truly change the course of a student’s life, as well as take the burden off parents who want more than anything to be able to fulfill their child's dream."
Shantilal Patel was born in a small, rural village in India in the 1940s. His father died shortly after he was born, leaving his mother widowed with three small children. In those days, women in India were not educated and Shantilal’s mother had to farm a small parcel of land to support her young family. Despite their meager lifestyle, Shantilal’s mother wanted to send her three boys to school knowing that education was their only way out of poverty.
An excellent student who graduated high school with academic distinction, Shantilal’s dream was to go to medical school. Despite the financial obstacles facing his family, he applied hoping for a miracle.
"The day the acceptance letter arrived, my father was out running errands," recounts Kalpesh. "His mother opened the letter and, knowing she could not afford the tuition, knew my father would be heartbroken that he was accepted but would be unable to attend. She decided to burn the letter and told my father when he returned that he had been rejected and she had burned the letter as she was angry with their decision."
Shantilal would not discover the truth until years later and to this day often wonders what his life would be like had he attended medical school.
Kalpesh and Shefali, who came to the U.S. 20 years ago with just their diplomas and their suitcases, credit their own successes to education and hard work and hope that this endowed scholarship fund will ensure that bright and talented students are not stopped short of their dreams because of finances. The annual need-based scholarship will be awarded to an undergraduate in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences with preference given to students who perform community service.
"We both really believe that the best gift one can give to a child is an education," say the Patels. "We are excited to share our reason for giving with other parents, and to let them know any contribution can snowball into changing the course of a student’s life, which is a powerful outcome."