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Scholars flourish in memory of alumni

May 14, 2010
By Paul Miller

Tough economic times have taken a toll on higher education, and scholarship funding has been no exception. But one scholarship program at Colorado State has flourished recently, bucking that trend.

Alumni Vivian Wolfe and her fiancée Javad Marshall-Fields, were murdered in 2005.

Surprise $300,000 gift last year

The Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe Memorial Scholarship, established after the 2005 murders of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, his fiancée – both CSU alumni – received a surprise $300,000 gift at the 1870 Club dinner last year to fully endow the scholarship.

The couple was gunned down by criminals in Aurora, Colo., in 2005 — a week before Javad was scheduled to testify as a key witness in a murder trial. Two men were later convicted and sentenced to death for committing the murders to prevent Javad from testifying.

Rhonda Fields, Javad’s mother and president and founder of the fund, vividly remembers the dinner. She had presented $10,000 to CSU for the scholarship – a difficult sum for her to raise – then spoke of her dream of reaching $300,000.

Loved CSU and the community

“I talked about how Javad really loved CSU and loved the community,” she says. “When I sent him to CSU, he was my boy. But when he graduated, he returned to me as a young man because of all the wonderful people on campus he had met and who mentored him.”

Later that evening, Joyce Berry, who then was vice president for Advancement and Strategic Initiatives, said to Fields, “You have your $300,000!” Although the donor asked to be anonymous, Fields later met him and his family.

One person really can make a difference

“The gift was breathtaking,” Fields says. “It shows how one person really can make a difference. It all starts with the love people have for CSU and for students.”

Paul Thayer, associate vice president for Student Affairs and special advisor to the Provost for Retention, also remembers the excitement that evening. Thayer, who administers the scholarship and who received the 2009 Fields/Wolfe: Journey to Justice Leadership Award, heard about the $300,000 gift from Fields.

“I thought she was just too excited and meant $3,000,” Thayer says. “I found out otherwise in a hurry. There were hugs and tears all around.”

Four students now funded throughout their academic careers

Rhonda Fields, Javad's mother, is founder and president of a successful scholarship fund that benefits students attending CSU.

The scholarship has been put to good use. “We just graduated our first scholar, Nichole Thompson, in December,” Fields says. “As our first scholar, Nichole is special. When we started this, we were operating kind of on faith. We had no clue that we’d be where we are today. Now we have four scholarship students, and they’re funded throughout their academic careers. That’s such a joy to see.”

Thayer says that the poignancy and significance of the scholarship is found in the memory of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, who both had been part of CSU’s Key Academic Community. Wolfe had also been instrumental in establishing the University’s first-ever Korean American Student Association. The couple had been engaged to be married for three weeks before their murders.

“Javad and Vivian absolutely radiated vitality,” Thayer says. “They were delightful people who were deeply committed to their education and to CSU.”

Recipients embody alums' spirit

“Our scholarship students embody the spirit of Javad and Vivian with their civic engagement and the importance of academic excellence,” Fields says.

Fields, who in January received the 2010 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, actively works with Colorado legislators to lobby for stronger laws to protect victims and victims’ rights.