The Founder’s Gala: Eugene Roth, Esq. ‘57 awarded President’s Medal

Wilkes University’s sixth annual Founders Gala was held on June 1 at Wilkes-Barre’s Westmoreland Club. The event honors not only some university students, but also distributes the highly coveted President’s Medal to a deserving individual who reflects the aspirations of the university.

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The gala occcured at the Westmoreland Club, which provided an atmosphere of luxury complete with hors d’oeuvres and a live jazz band.

The Founder’s Gala was established in 2014. Proceeds from the event are used for the First Generation Scholarship, a scholarship for students who represent the first person in their family to attend college.

Every year the gala honors students who were first generation college students. This year students Leticia Patino-Flores, Alexandra Panek and Romeo Rosario were given the opportunity to deliver a speech directly to those who have donated to the university throughout the year.

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First generation college students were given the opportunity to thank the university’s donors. From left to right: Alexandra Panek, Romeo Rosario, Leticia Patino-Flores

Each student was surrounded by family friends and professors as they greeted the donors around the gala.

Patino-Flores, a political science major, said, “It’s a little nerve-wracking but it’s an honor to be asked to speak at the gala.”

“Multiple people get this, which is an amazing opportunity as being a first-generation college student is difficult, so just the fact they have a scholarship like this readily available for us is very convenient and we’re very thankful.”

Rosario, a recently graduated psychology major, wanted to set an example for others.

“It only takes one spark to light the fire, and I am that spark. I want to lead the way for successful lawyers, doctors and everything in between for my family,” he said.

“There’s tons of different students at Wilkes who are beyond eligible to speak at this event, and to be able to cap off my college experience speaking at this gala and recollecting on my experience as a Colonel to the donors who made this all possible is a really amazing opportunity,” said Rosario. “I hope others are able to have the same opportunity as well.”

Panek, a pharmacy major, said, “It’s definitely a good chance to express why something like this is such an important scholarship. It makes the difference between students being able to come to school or not. I’m glad I’m able to represent that for the other students who maybe didn’t have the opportunity.

“I’m really grateful for all the donors and anyone who really helps students who might not have the means to come to school on their own. Even if it’s not financial support, but someone to help guide them to where they want to be because they might not have someone to do that for them in their family,” she continued.

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Alexandra Panek along with family members Jennifer Panek and Lee Hartjen pose for a photo before the gala’s dinner.

Patino-Flores believes in continuing the cycle of generosity started by the school.

“There is a need to pay it forward, to help others in similar situations,” she said.

This year’s President’s Medal was awarded to attorney Eugene Roth. He has the distinction of serving under each of Wilkes University’s six presidents, first as vice president of his undergraduate class, then as president of the alumni association and eventually as a member of the University’s board of trustees, a role he serves to this day. He was the board chairman from 1993 to 1998, helping to establish the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy.

Roth is currently the longest-serving attorney at Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald, rising from law clerk to partner during his 60-year tenure. Roth has donated to his alma mater, Wilkes University, for years, evidenced with the Lawrence W. Roth Hall, a residence for first-year students, and the Max Roth Center, home to the Center for Global Education and Diversity.

Roth, who was a first-generation student himself, sees the scholarship as a way to give back to students who are in the same situation.

“I wanted to help all students to be able to have the wonderful experience and benefits that I didn’t have,” he said.

He was accepted to Wilkes after graduating from GAR and admitted that he struggled during his first year. He cleaned up his work ethic with advice from his mentors and wound up getting accepted to law school in 1957. From there, the rest is history.

This year’s Founders Gala had more than 400 attendees.

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The more than 400 attendees were served a specialty dinner after the cocktail hour.

“It’s been remarkable in terms of the ways it’s been growing. The funds have been growing. And when you hear the stories told by students like the ones you’ll hear from today, first generation is a remarkable story. Especially for the families who never dreamed it could happen,” said Roth.

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Those invited to the gala included those who have donated to the university in the past year.

Rosario said, “I think more people should look into the Founders Gala and try to make it more of an event that a lot of students can come to as well, not just those who have the ‘highlights.’”

Past Founders Galas awarded President’s Medals to Lawrence E. Cohen (2018), Frank M. Henry (2017), Clayton and Theresa Karambelas (2016) and John G. Reese (2015).