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Gift to study away program honors professor and brings opportunities to more students

From left to right: Isabelle Jarvis ’23, Suresh Muthukrishnan, professor and chair of the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Sustainability Sciences, Marie Cecil ’24, Annie Lucas ’23 and Aru Sakhariyanova ’26 walk inside a glacier during a May Experience study away trip in 2023 to Iceland. / Credit: Aru Sakhariyanova ’26.

Last updated November 10, 2023

By Mary Mikell

Becky Folds ’81 and her husband, Adnan Rukieh, have contributed $475,000 to student scholarships through Furman University’s Center for Engaged Learning, in memory of Folds’ cousin, Sallie Grant, who was a professor of education emerita.

Nearly three years after her passing, Grant’s passion for travel, teaching and Furman will impact students in perpetuity, with $375,000 allocated to Study Away and $100,000 to the May Experience (MayX) program.

“When Adnan and I were thinking about how we might want to leave a legacy and honor Sallie in some way, the most natural way seemed to be to honor her love of exploration. Sallie never turned down a chance to go to a new place, and she had a gift for incorporating her experiences into her teaching,” Folds said of Grant, who joined Furman’s faculty in 1971 and retired in 1993.

After visiting campus in April for the Clearly Furman campaign launch, Folds and Rukieh heard first-hand how travel and experiential learning were impacting students. The Furman Advantage, the university’s signature educational framework, is one of the priorities of the Clearly Furman campaign, which has a goal of raising $426 million by 2026.

“We sat in on a number of on-campus sessions and heard from students who spent a semester abroad or did a MayX,” Rukieh said of the campaign launch weekend. “And it hit us how important these programs are, and what they do to broaden the perspectives of Furman undergraduates.”

Real-world learning experiences are an integral part of The Furman Advantage. Nearly 60 percent of students participate in study away programs, including MayX, an optional three-week term following the spring semester. Through these programs, students can travel across the globe or within the United States on faculty-led trips.

During her time at Furman, Folds recalled many students not having the opportunity to study away.

“We realized there’s still a number of students for whom the cost is a barrier,” Folds said. “It’s our hope that we can enable as many students as possible to have an enriching college experience, and to hopefully graduate with a broader understanding of the world.”

A man and woman stand smiling with a water body behind them.

Adnan Rukieh and Becky Folds ’81

Nancy Georgiev, director of study away and international education, said resources from need-based financial aid are crucial to the center fulfilling its mission of making study away opportunities accessible to every student.

“The students with the most difficult economic hardships, when offered a study away scholarship, almost always accept a spot on the program and see it to completion,” said Georgiev. “We know these scholarships make a difference because students tell us themselves, while sharing stories of transformative learning moments, first times on airplanes, and the sites and tastes of the world.”

In many ways, Folds’ and Rukieh’s interest in world travel and differing cultures was fostered by Grant, who spent time teaching in Asia. Most recently, the couple returned from a journey to Uganda, Kenya and South Africa, where they engaged with a wide variety of people and had conversations about their everyday lives and challenges.

They shared that exploring new cultures – beyond admiring the scenery and tasting the different foods – has enriched their perspective on their own lives. Folds added that they hope those same opportunities will inform and impact students on their future travels.

“We feel fortunate to be in a position to do something that we hope will enrich students’ lives, while honoring someone we deeply loved and respected,” Folds said. “Furman was important to Sallie, and Sallie was important to Furman and to us.”

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