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Vassar Trustees Honor Retiring Chair with $1 Million Gift for Posse Scholars

Current and former trustees of Vassar College have thanked retiring Chair William Plapinger ’74, P’10 for his more than two decades of service to the college by sustaining one of his most cherished initiatives: a program enabling military veterans to enroll at Vassar through The Posse Foundation. Newly elected Chair Anthony Friscia ’78 announced that more than 50 current and former trustees have created a $1-million scholarship fund for Posse vets in Plapinger’s name.

Vassar Board of Trustees Chair William Plapinger ’74, P’10 (fifth from right) meets with Posse members who graduated this spring. Left to right: Dean of Studies Benjamin Lotto, Patrick DeYoung, Antoine Robinson, Nicole Leadenham, President Elizabeth Bradley, Plapinger, Jonathan Snyder, Huy Nguyen, Prof. of Political Science and Posse faculty mentor Sidney Plotkin, Sidney Johnson.Photo: Samuel Stuart

Plapinger has served on Vassar’s board of trustees for 22 years, the last 12 as chair. In 2012 he and other trustees collaborated with then-President Catharine Hill and the Posse Foundation to create an initiative placing a “posse” of 10 qualified veterans at the college every year, starting in 2013. The Posse Foundation identifies and recruits qualified students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college.

Plapinger, who also serves on the board of the Posse Foundation, called the establishment of the Plapinger Family Posse Veterans Scholarship an apt recognition of his tenure on the board, combining his passion for Vassar, for Posse, for our nation’s Veterans and for higher education. Members of the second Posse Veterans class received their diplomas at Vassar’s Commencement ceremonies last month.

“It has been fantastic to see these non-traditional Vassar students be successful at Vassar,” Plapinger said. “Watching them graduate has given me a tremendous sense of pride both in them and in Vassar.”

Friscia said the idea for establishing the scholarship fund in Plapinger’s honor was hatched during meetings last fall with President Elizabeth Bradley and Catherine Baer, Vice President for Alumnae/i Affairs and Development. “Developing the Posse program at Vassar was something Bill cared about deeply,” Frisica said. “When it came to fruition under his and Cappy Hill’s leadership, it was something all of us on the board were very proud of.”

Bradley called the trustees’ gift a fitting recognition of Plapinger’s years of leadership. “This extremely generous gift is a wonderful tribute to Bill’s decades of service to Vassar and his unwavering commitment to higher education for Veterans,” she said. “He has worked tirelessly to ensure that all students are given the means and opportunity to earn a Vassar diploma. This gift will allow us to keep the Posse Foundation program at Vassar going strong, and I could not be more delighted.”

Deborah Bial, Posse Foundation founder and president, said establishing the scholarship fund was especially appropriate because Plapinger “has been a bridge between the two institutions in the most positive of ways.

“Bill is committed to promoting educational equity,” Bial said. “He believes that any successful educational environment embodies inclusion. When the Posse program began at Vassar, there was only one veteran student on campus, and now there are more than 40. Bill is dedicated to making the kind of education Vassar offers accessible to people who otherwise might not have had access to it; he believes this in his heart.”

Baer said it was telling, but not surprising, that more than 50 current and former trustees who had served with Plapinger had donated to the scholarship fund. “Bill was an inspiring leader of the board, and the outpouring of gifts for this fund clearly reflects that,” Baer said. “He played a leadership role in selecting Catharine Hill as our 10th President and was a member of the search committee that nominated Elizabeth Bradley as our 11th President. These donations by those who worked with him reflect how important he has been to the college.”

Plapinger said he was moved by the generosity of his fellow trustees. “I worked side by side for many years with people who love Vassar as much as I do, and to learn that so many of them funded this scholarship was enormously humbling and gratifying,” he said.

In addition to this new scholarship, the Plapinger Family Scholarship was established by Plapinger and his wife, Cassie Murray, in 2012 to provide financial aid to Vassar students who are not United States citizens.