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Pittsfield Couple Infects Students with the Spirit of Giving

Pittsfield resident Nicholas Boraski never forgot the big break he got from the G.I. Bill in 1946. Now his own good fortune is paying off for the 170 engineering students who have received scholarships from the fund set up by Boraski and his wife, Ruth, in 1994. What’s more, the good deeds of the Boraskis are proving contagious, judging by how they are infecting the scholarship recipients. Each of the Boraski Scholars is “giving back” in one way or another.

Nicholas Boraski had wanted to study engineering since he was a boy, but he never could afford it. Then, after his discharge from the Navy following World War II, he got his chance. In 1946, the new G.I. Bill supported him while he attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Engineering. That schooling led Boraski to a long and successful career at General Electric, where he served as the general manager of Pittsfield’s GE Plant and retired as a vice president.

Nearly half a century after he started at UMass, that experience motivated Boraski and his wife to establish the Nicholas Boraski Scholarship Fund at the College of Engineering. Now it’s the largest scholarship endowment at the college. Since 1994, when the Mr. and Mrs. Boraski established the fund, 170 students have received $217,861 in scholarships from the fund.

“All kids should have the opportunity for an excellent education,” said Boraski. “I would like to believe that all graduates who have benefitted from our College of Engineering would support the great need for additional funds for engineering scholarships.”

Upon graduating from the College of Engineering in 1950, Nicholas Boraski continued his interest in higher education during his long career at General Electric by serving on the Massachusetts Board of Regents. Today the spirit of giving that the Boraskis exhibited by starting their scholarship fund is catching. The students who are benefitting from Boraski support have been infected.

Take senior Lynn Crevier, a Boraski Scholar in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. “Scholarship support has been critical in allowing me to pursue my degree,” said Crevier. “It has also opened my eyes to the world of philanthropy. In response, I’m already volunteering to tutor my peers through the Women in Engineering program and volunteering my time for the Society of Women Engineers.”

In addition, Crevier has raised and donated more than $5,000 through sales of her homemade jewelry to benefit the handicap accessible ramp project at her church. Her Boraski Scholarship has also inspired her to create a jewelry scholarship fund at the College of Engineering, and she has pledged to start another scholarship fund there as soon as she begins her professional career.

Another good example is Debbie Cheng, a junior mechanical engineering major whose dream is to work on a NASCAR team. “My parents, both only high school graduates, immigrated to America to build a better life for my sisters and me,” said Cheng. “My sisters and I are currently all in college. I am very thankful for this contribution to help my family financially.”

Cheng’s reaction to her Boraski Scholarship shows once again that philanthropy is infectious. As she said, “A former teacher of mine emphasized to his students, ‘Find your path, give back, make good choices.’ I have found my path. One day I hope to give back by supporting students.”

The spirit of the Boraski scholarships also spread to Robin Creamer, a mechanical engineering major. In 2005, he was attending Tulane University in New Orleans when he was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the whole campus was shut down. When Tulane reopened the following year, it was no longer offering his major. So Creamer is now working his way through UMass Amherst. From July of 2006 to January of 2007 he participated in a study abroad program in New Zealand, where he fell in love with a natural resources engineering class he took there. Now, Creamer’s ambition is a career that ties together his major in mechanical engineering and his minor in fisheries conservation. He wants to give back to society with his environmental career. Reaching that goal was made a lot easier when he received a Boraski Scholarship.

“As an engineering student,” he said, “I do not have a chance to work during the school year to the extent I would like, and my summer earnings never seem to be enough to avoid student loans. It should go without saying that I am grateful to receive this scholarship.”

Another Boraski Scholar is Michael Carney, a senior majoring in computer systems engineering and minoring in piano performance. “I am paying all my college bills completely on my own,” said Carney. “Very quickly I found that when you use your own money to pay for college, you realize going to college is a huge privilege, and every minute should be spent wisely. The Boraski Scholarship is a huge help to me in my ultimate quest for an education and a career.”

If the spirit of good will has been spread by Nicholas and Ruth Boraski to these four students, then imagine how much good is being generated when multiplied by all the Boraski Scholars. To date, 170 have been infected, and counting.