Sometimes Ilana and Andy Zalkin ’76 wonder what their son, Michael, would have become.
A “wizard in math,” would he have ended up pursuing a technical discipline? But he was also a “prolific reader.” Would he have become an author? Or would his love of children have led him to a career in education?
Michael Zalkin never had the chance to explore his interests. He was tragically killed in a vehicular accident days after his 13th birthday in 2004.
Ten years later, as Andy Zalkin was taking his daily morning walk near a river park, the father of three (Michael, Adam and Hayley) decided he wanted to do something in honor of the 10-year anniversary of his son’s death. He spoke with his wife, and they decided to establish a scholarship in memory of Michael at SUNY Oswego.
“He was so young that he didn’t have the chance to fully develop his interests,” Ilana Zalkin said. “We thought about a math scholarship because he was good in math, but we really wanted to help someone have a life-changing experience. Study abroad is so impactful and can change a life. We hope the recipients say, ’If not for that scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to go to Rome or Ireland and that experience really changed my life.’”
That’s exactly how Megan Scott ’16 said she feels as the first recipient of the Michael B. Zalkin Memorial Scholarship, a $4,000 award for a junior or senior with a 3.0 GPA or higher who has been accepted into a semester-long or summer study abroad program.
A business administration and economics dual major, Scott is studying global marketing, human resource management and international trade economics at University College Dublin in Ireland this semester.
“I cannot thank the Zalkins enough for their generosity,” Scott said. “At some point, I would like to be comfortable and experienced enough to expand my traveling to developing countries, where I hope to make a difference for women in business. Studying abroad is the first step. I will always think of the Zalkins as I travel during this trip and in the future.”
The Zalkins said they feel closest to Michael when they hear such comments from the individuals who are benefiting from the funds and opportunities established in his name.
“We think Michael would take pride knowing that others would be able to study abroad because of the scholarship established in his memory,” Andy Zalkin said.
Shortly after Michael’s death, the family endowed seven to nine scholarships a year to attend Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, a highly selective summer program for seventh and eighth graders who take the SATs and earn a certain score. Michael had just been accepted into the program and was looking forward to attending the sleep-away camp the following summer, as he had already committed to attending Camp Barney in Cleveland, Georgia.
They also commissioned a large mural and climbing wall at Mt. Bethel Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia, dedicated a library at the Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia, and named a baseball field at Camp Barney.
“We’ve done a lot to honor his name,” Andy Zalkin said. “But I wanted to do something for him at this time again. I was really moved to give back to Oswego. I got very emotional about it.”
The Zalkin’s $100,000 gift establishes the endowed scholarship that will continue to support life-changing, study abroad experiences for Oswego students in perpetuity.
“Michael’s scholarship will continue long after the rest of us are gone,” Ilana Zalkin said. “It will last forever.”