Former Scholarship Recipient Pays it Forward

From left, Tina Stietzel '90 (BUS), Michael Byon '15 (ENG), and Chuck Stietzel '91 (ENG), '93 MS at the UConn Alumni Association Donor and Scholarship Recognition reception last December. (The Defining Photo, for UConn)

From left, Tina Stietzel ’90 (BUS), Michael Byon ’15 (ENG), and Chuck Stietzel ’91 (ENG), ’93 MS at the UConn Alumni Association Donor and Scholarship Recognition reception last December. (The Defining Photo, for UConn)

When Chuck Stietzel’s father passed away during his junior year at UConn, a cloud of uncertainty loomed over his head as to how he would complete his studies.

At the time, Stietzel ’91 (ENG), ’93 MS was majoring in computer science, and the loss of his father nearly derailed his dream of earning a degree.

“The circumstances were very difficult and created so much uncertainty for my family,” he recalls. As one of five children and the first among his siblings to go to college, Stietzel was unsure how he could finish college without assistance.

The financial support he needed came from an endowment fund established by Roger Thalacker, former executive director of the UConn Alumni Association, in memory of his 22-year-old son Brian, who died in a 1990 house fire while a student at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Stietzel immediately felt a special bond with Thalacker, since his need for aid occurred after his own father died in a fire. “I met Roger at an award ceremony, and often thought about him and Brian after I received the scholarship,” says Stietzel. “Brian was about my age.”

I remember a time in my life when it was very precarious … I wanted to try to create certainty in students’ lives and have them focus on their academic goals. –Chuck Stietzel ’91 (ENG), ’93 MS

Stietzel earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of Engineering, and always felt indebted to the Thalacker family. As a graduate student, he worked as a teacher’s assistant in computer science to help offset some of his educational expenses.

The gift of education left an indelible mark on Stietzel, now managing director of technology at Point72 Asset Management in Stamford, Conn.

“I always wanted to return the favor,” explains Stietzel, who repaid his scholarship to the fund in Brian Thalacker’s memory so it could help someone else. Then, in 2012, he and his wife Tina ’90 (BUS) paid it forward by establishing the Stietzel Family Scholarship.

“It was something that I had been discussing with Tina over the years, and she fully supported the idea,” he says.

The scholarship fund is used to support a student in the School of Engineering or School of Business, or a student who is on either the men’s or the women’s track and field team, since Stietzel was a member.

“I remember a time in my life when it was very precarious,” notes Stietzel. “I wanted to try to create certainty in students’ lives and have them focus on their academic goals. I consider myself very fortunate for where I am in my life, and want to help others.”

Last December, the UConn Alumni Association hosted a Donor and Scholarship Recognition reception in Storrs, which brought donors and recipients together. Among the attendees was Michael Byon ’15 (ENG), recipient of the Stietzel Family Scholarship, who had the opportunity to meet his benefactors.

“The Stietzel Family Scholarship has given me a strong appreciation toward UConn alumni donors and the Alumni Association for their support in helping current UConn students pursue their education,” says Byon. “I plan on completing my degree in computer science and then commissioning into the Air Force.”

Adds Stietzel, “Tina and I are happy we can help. What we’re doing feels right.”