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Funding Futures: Major gift to CMSRU provides new opportunities

Alumnus, wife donate more than $1 million for Medical School scholarships

To the core, Lawrence J. Salva is a numbers guy.

So when Salva, senior vice president, chief accounting officer and controller of Comcast Corporation, heard that the average medical school student graduates with more than $150,000 worth of debt, the Rowan University alumnus decided to make a difference and assist aspiring South Jersey physicians.

Salva, vice chairman of the Rowan University Foundation Board, and his wife, Rita, of Princeton, have pledged $1.055 million to the Foundation to establish the Lawrence & Rita Salva Medical Scholars Fund at Rowan. The single largest gift to date for Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU), the Salvas' pledge also is the largest one-time gift ever made to Rowan by an alumnus.

Their gift will establish a $1 million endowment to benefit students enrolled at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU). The additional $55,000 in contributions—and the earnings on the endowment—will provide $100,000 in scholarships for the medical school's charter class.

"The debt numbers for medical school students are just so compelling," says Salva, who earned his bachelor's degree in business from the University in 1977.

"We're absolutely excited about the medical school and the promise it holds for South Jersey. This scholarship fund gives us a tremendous opportunity to help medical school students pursue their dreams as they work to make a positive impact on the lives of others."

Supporting promising new physicians

According to Founding Dean Paul Katz, MD, tuition for a CMSRU student is $32,860 in state, $52,680 out-of-state. Including tuition, fees and living expenses, the average yearly cost of living for a medical school student in New Jersey is $57,400, according to Katz.

Medical school students often base their medical school decisions—and their choice of specialty—on their expected debt and the funding they can receive to help alleviate that debt. In the selection of the charter class, CMSRU has focused its mission to provide humanistic education in the art and science of medicine within a scientific and scholarly community in which inclusivity, excellence in patient care, innovative teaching, research, and service to the community are valued.

The Salvas' gift will help CMSRU attract students from diverse backgrounds who resonate with this mission. The gift will provide those students with the freedom to select careers that help fulfill that mission without having to choose a specialty based on their need to repay large debts, according to Katz. Those mission-based careers include urban-focused primary care, an area that is much needed and has significant local and national shortages, Katz notes.

"Scholarship support certainly increases the likelihood that New Jersey students will stay in the region to attend medical school and ultimately practice and become the kind of providers the state desperately needs," says Katz, noting that CMSRU received almost 3,000 applications for 50 spots in the medical school's charter class, which will begin studies in August.

"Since many of our accepted students have been accepted by other medical schools, offering them financial assistance is critical for us as we look to attract the most highly qualified students who match our mission and who need financial assistance to attend our school."

Students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds often show more interest in becoming primary care physicians, particularly in urban areas, according to Katz.

"We're building a diverse student body that will be enriched by the work they'll be doing in the City of Camden," Katz says.

About the scholarships

The Lawrence & Rita Salva Medical Scholars Fund will provide funding to award one or more of three distinct four-year scholarships each year beginning in 2012:
• The Southern New Jersey Scholarship is intended for students with financial need who have attended a K-12 school in South Jersey;
• The Founder Scholarship is for students with financial need who come from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds;
• The Service Scholarship will be awarded to students who have performed more than 200 hours of volunteer service prior to matriculation.

All three existing scholarships support CMSRU's mission of educating students who are likely to establish practices in South Jersey; attracting a diverse community of students who are excited about learning and working in an urban environment; and admitting students who will serve as leaders in CMSRU's community-based education model.

A history of giving

For years, Larry Salva has given back to his alma mater.  A member of the board of the Rowan University Foundation since 2000, he helps oversee and manage a $143 million endowment.

Since 2002, Salva, who served eight years as a member of the alumni association board, has contributed $125,000 to the Salva Family Scholarship Fund. The fund assists students involved in WGLS-FM, the campus radio station, as well as students in the radio/television/film program.

While a student at the University, Salva was the business manager for WGLS-FM and is a member of the station's Hall of Fame.

"It's gratifying to see the Salvas give a landmark gift to Rowan, especially since Larry has generously shared his time and talents with the University for years," says Rowan Interim President Dr. Ali Houshmand.

"We're very proud to see donors—especially our alumni—support our University," Houshmand continues. "Their generosity demonstrates to us that they have confidence in us and are invested in the future of Rowan University."

Impact of aid

Larry Salva's story is a prime example of the impact receiving financial aid can have on a student's future success, Houshmand notes.

Salva, who grew up in Clifton, Passaic County, was a first-generation college student who held various jobs—including working at a Wawa convenience store—to earn his degree. He received a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (known later as a Pell Grant), which was given to students with demonstrated financial need.

Through campus involvement and networking, the graduate of Paul VI High School in Clifton earned his degree not only with a near perfect 3.97 GPA, but, also, a tremendous resume. While in college, he worked for the Glassboro-based Petroni & Associates, an accounting firm.

After graduation, Salva's career skyrocketed. He was a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers for a dozen years and also served as a professional accounting fellow with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission's Office of the Chief Accountant.

At Comcast, he is responsible for external financial and management reporting, corporate accounting and corporate internal controls. He joined Comcast in 2000.

"In college, I was fortunate enough to receive federal funding to support my studies. And I was mentored by a lot of good people," says Salva. "I feel an obligation to return the favor and provide support.

"In order to succeed, you need the right chance…the right door to open for you."

Supporting and promoting health care is important to the Salvas. A registered dental hygienist and certified dental assistant, Rita Salva is an adjunct faculty member at both Burlington County College and Middlesex County College. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Thomas Edison State College, she earned her master's degree from Seton Hall University. She has volunteered her time to promote the importance of good oral hygiene to elementary school children and to children with special needs.

Inspiring other gifts

The Salvas' generosity demonstrates their commitment to Rowan—and to South Jersey, according to R.J. Tallarida, Jr., acting executive director of the Rowan University Foundation and assistant vice president for development.

"The Salvas' gift truly is transformative and will have a lasting impact on Rowan University, our new medical school and the entire region," Tallarida says. "Larry's leadership on our board has been vital to the Foundation's success and its ability to enhance the opportunities available to Rowan's students."

Just months after the formation of CMSRU was announced in 2009, alumnus Dr. Marque Allen and his wife, Yvette, made the first gift to the medical school when they pledged $100,000 for student scholarships. Since then, CMSRU has received a generous contribution from Haddonfield physician Dr. Michael Renzi and his family and a $300,000 gift from Dr. Ludwig Schlitt and his children—Drs. Michael, Stephanie, and Mark—of Advocare Pediatric Group in Haddon Heights.

"Cooper Medical School of Rowan University is a vitally important initiative for the region," Salva says. "We hope that our gift will inspire others to give to Rowan at an exciting time in the University's history."