Game, Set, Match, Scholarships
A chance meeting on the tennis courts leads to a life of love and service for Andrew Silver ’75, PhD and Merrill Leventer Silver ’75.
By Kate O’Brien
When Merrill and Andy Silver met on the Stony Brook tennis courts during their freshman orientation 50 years ago, little did they know what a beautiful life they would build together — or what a tremendous impact they would have on the lives of so many aspiring Seawolves.
The first in their working-class families to attend college full time, they each relied upon financial support to attend Stony Brook. Grateful for the chance they’d been given, they cherished every opportunity to learn and grow during their time as undergrads. Merrill fondly remembered her part-time on-campus job typing for Nobel Prize winner C.N. Yang in the prestigious Institute for Theoretical Physics — a far cry from the liberal arts education she was enthusiastically pursuing. Andy recalled two of his professors and mentors in the Department of Economics, Bill Dawes and Herman Stekler, who went above and beyond to help him succeed. In fact, Andy forged such a strong relationship with Professor Dawes that they have remained friends long after Andy’s days at Stony Brook.
Upon graduation, Merrill began teaching middle school English on Long Island and Andy started a PhD program in economics at the University of Michigan. After they married in August 1976, Merrill joined Andy in Ann Arbor and earned a master’s degree in English and education. They have since built successful and enriching careers, she as a teacher and freelance writer, and he as an economist and financial analyst.
Never forgetting the impact that early financial support had on their lives, the Silvers decided to help others access those same opportunities. In 2015, they created the Andrew and Merrill Silver Scholarship to enable one graduate per year from Andy’s alma mater, the Bronx High School of Science, to attend Stony Brook for four years.
After seeing the impact the scholarship was making on its initial recipient, the Silvers expanded their support to two students annually. Recently, they extended the scholarship to one and then two graduates per year from Merrill’s alma mater, James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York.
Since 2015, the Silvers have transformed the lives of 11 Silver Scholars — “our kids,” as they like to refer to them. And that number continues to grow, as more graduating high school seniors qualify for the scholarships each year.
The couple humbly insist that they get as much out of the scholarships as the students do.
“I think we can see a little of ourselves in these kids — first-generation college students with a desire to be independent and to put their mark on the world,” said Merrill. “It’s an honor to nurture them as they make their way through Stony Brook and beyond.”
In addition to good grades, a requirement of the scholarship is that the recipients participate in community service during their time at Stony Brook. The couple hopes the lessons the Silver Scholars learn from their own volunteerism and from the Silvers’ scholarship will motivate the students to, as they like to say, “pay it forward.”
“The recipients feel almost like family to us, and we rejoice in their successes,” said Andy. “And I hope that by getting to know us, they may be inspired to do something similar…to remember how fortunate they are and to share their fortune in their own ways with others.”
Kate O’Brien is the Senior Development Writer for Advancement Communications