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New Scholarship Targets First-Generation College Students

Lise Pfeiffer Chapman ’81 has endowed a scholarship at the Yale School of Management that will help first-generation college students finance their business school education.

By Karen Guzman

A generous loan from a nonprofit foundation made a college education possible for Lise Pfeiffer Chapman, who received her MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1981. She’s paying that good deed forward by creating a new scholarship aimed at helping first-generation college students finance their Yale SOM education. This endowed scholarship is the first of its kind at the school.

Lise Pfeiffer Chapman
Lise Pfeiffer Chapman ’81

“This is something that I need to do,” says Chapman, a former chair of the Association of Yale Alumni Board of Governors. “I’m proud to be an SOM graduate, a Yale alumna, and a volunteer for the university. I had been thinking about doing something for SOM since our last reunion in April 2016, but given my current focus, I want to make a positive impact for first-generation and low-income students, and do it in a permanent, ongoing way.”

Chapman was not the first member of her family to attend college, but a loan from the Hattie M. Strong Foundation financed her undergraduate years at Stanford University. “They believed in me and gave me a chance with the only requirement to pay it back once I had income,” she says. “I could not have attended Stanford, and consequently Yale, without the help of others. Being grateful, I have continued to give back throughout my life.”

Chapman also was motivated to establish the Yale SOM scholarship, in part, by her own challenging experiences growing up in Los Angeles. “There were a lot of unexpected events and challenges along the way,” she says. “But luckily there also were people who reached out to help me navigate and see that there were opportunities ahead.”

At first, she wanted to be an anonymous donor, but after some consideration and in appreciation of her time serving on the AYA board for eight years, Chapman decided to put her name on the Yale SOM fellowship. “I needed to own this and be a mentor, to lead by example,” she says. “I want to help students feel that they all belong as members of the Yale family. I hope this new scholarship encourages SOM and other Yale alumni to make a difference in their own way.”

The new scholarship relates directly to Chapman’s current volunteer service to the university. “Stepping down from serving as board chair in 2016, I saw the need to connect alumni as an important resource for students who share being first-generation to college or graduate school and from low-income backgrounds. By creating 1stGenYale, an AYA Shared Interest Group, alumni from all schools connect with each other based on shared experiences and can give back to support current students.”

Since its founding, 1stGenYale has held more than eight events and connected more than 1,000 alumni and students focused on building life and career strategies. Chapman and a team of 15 Yale alumni developed and organized the inaugural “1stGenYale Alumni Conference - Blazing the Trail: Being the First” last April, which connected many 1stGen alumni for the first time.

“Being an SOM alumna, I see ways to connect alumni throughout the entire university, as we are ‘One Yale’,” Chapman says. “We connect alumni and students who share a common background, but we’re not exclusive. We welcome everyone and those who want to help others succeed.”

Following graduation from SOM, Chapman was a vice president in mergers and acquisitions at Merrill Lynch, and has transitioned in recent years to an entrepreneurial role that lets her create innovative college and career development programs that serve students and alumni in different institutions.

“Feeling blessed in so many ways with my husband, Andrew Chapman, who is also a 1981 graduate of Yale SOM, and our three children, I’m redesigning my career path back to my roots to help others as I have been helped along the way,” she says.

In November, Chapman will be awarded the Yale Medal, in recognition of her service to the greater Yale community.