It sounds like a dream come true, but Herlihy was torn. She had been accepted by the UA College of Engineering and orientation was just a week away. "I think you all know what decision I made," she said to the audience at a recent UA Engineering scholarship reception. "I made a promise to myself that day: You will graduate in four years with an engineering degree. You will change the world. And most importantly, you will pay mom and dad back for this trip."
Herlihy was addressing the audience at the UA College of Engineering scholarship reception held April 2 at the Tucson Marriott University Park. The annual reception is an opportunity for students and the College to thank donors, and to get scholarship donors together with the students who have benefited in so many different ways from their generosity.
Herlihy was born and raised in Tucson and went to Sahuaro High School, and she always knew she wanted to be a Wildcat. But money was tight at home. Neither of her parents went to college and her dad was unemployed when she started at UA. Even when her father did find a job, any spare money went to paying down debts.
"This is where my donors came in to save the day," she said. "The scholarships I have received through the College have helped me in tremendous ways, and I am forever appreciative of my donors. You were the answer I needed in a rough time."
Herlihy is now finishing her junior year, studying a major in materials science and engineering with a minor in mathematics. She has had multiple jobs on campus, including being a math tutor for UA athletes and a student coordinator for Cubs to Wildcats, which encourages K-8 students to go to college.
She has been involved in several clubs and societies, and is an Engineering Ambassador. She has also done undergraduate research with Erica Corral in the materials science and engineering department.
She'll soon start an internship at Honeywell Aerospace, and hopes to join the company full-time when she graduates. "In the future," she told her benefactors and fellow students, "I would like to get a master's degree in engineering management from none other than the U of A."
Turning uncertainty into success is not just Herlihy's story. The UA College of Engineering awards about $800,000 every year in private scholarships to approximately 350 students.
Another scholarship recipient, math and mechanical engineering double major Ina Kundu, told the audience how a scholarship frees students from the shackles of financial stress and allows them to develop fully. "I have loved almost every moment of my college days," she said. "Partly because I could take part in numerous activities without ever worrying about the cost of education."
Kundu said that being more involved with community service and campus activities enriched her college experience. She is president of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and president of the UA student chapter of ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. "While these are enjoyable activities," she said, "they do not pay for books or lab fees."
Kundu begins a PhD at MIT in the fall. "I will continue my quest to help society by specializing in biomechanics," she said. "My fellow classmates will follow suit as they join graduate programs or get jobs or conduct research in pursuit of bettering society. All these opportunities remain possible by your generous scholarships."
The audience of donors and scholars also heard from John Rodgers, an alumnus who recently established a perpetual scholarship in honor of one of his UA professors, Tom Morris, who was head of the mining and geological engineering department during Rodgers' college days.
Rodgers graduated from UA in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in metallurgical engineering, and in 1974 with a master's degree in metallurgy. In 1991 he founded Acoustic Emission Consulting Inc. and is the company's president.
"I got to the point where I can give back to the University and I'd like to convey that sense of obligation to all of you," Rodgers said. "You are here primarily because you are the best and the brightest and you've got people willing to help you get through life and your education."