Chloe Edwards hasn’t met Mary Findling, but she has benefited from her generosity.
As one of dozens of College of Liberal Arts students who received scholarship assistance through a $1 million gift Findling made in 2014, Edwards said such acts of kindness motivate her to someday pay it forward.
“That’s definitely one of the ultimate goals that I have: to be able to help other people that don’t have as much as I have or that just need that push to do what they need to do,” said Edwards, a senior in sociology and developmental and family science who will graduate in three years.
Findling would certainly approve of Edwards’ future intentions. The 1972 alumna who completed a degree in German was inspired to donate because of a life-changing study abroad trip to Hamburg for the 1971-72 school year. The opportunity to trek across Europe that year sparked a love of travel and further cemented an interest in international cultures.
“I was just a farm girl from Indiana who had never really been anywhere,” said Findling, a medical malpractice attorney in Indianapolis. “I’d never been on an airplane when I first flew to Paris, and we spent a few days there and then went on to Hamburg. I went my senior year, and it just opened up the whole world to me.
“It was so fascinating, and I just appreciated that opportunity to spend a year outside the United States. I realized, ‘Man, there’s a big world out here, and it’s important to understand the rest of the world and see the rest of the world.’”
Findling initially planned for at least half of her gift to match donations made to support College of Liberal Arts students participating in study abroad, but the program was eventually expanded with her approval.
She was happy to help anyone who needed assistance.
“I think people should give a lot of their money away because it improves the lives of other people who will then do well and hopefully return that generosity sometime,” Findling said. “Help the people who really need help. I want to see people have a fighting chance.”
In Edwards, her funding support aided a student whose Purdue experience is defined by a desire to uplift others.
After choosing sociology as her major based upon positive experiences in Lecturer Warren Dukes’ racial and ethnic diversity course (SOC 310) and Lindsay Hamm’s social problems course (SOC 220), Edwards is now in her third semester as Dukes’ teaching assistant in SOC 310.
“The most significant role she has is to keep me straight with what’s happening in the class. I definitely depend on her with that,” said Dukes, who also mentors Edwards about her plans to continue her education after completing her undergraduate studies. “She assists with grading assignments, whether it’s written assignments or discussion posts. She also assists with organizing and reviewing to make sure the online information is structured and reads well from a student perspective. She definitely gives me a great window into how to direct the class for undergraduate students’ understanding.”
But perhaps her biggest area of impact at Purdue has come outside the classroom. After becoming active in the Black Cultural Center, Edwards joined the Black Voices of Inspiration, a BCC choir that performs traditional and contemporary songs by African American composers. She also served as an officer with the Purdue Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and interacted with numerous prospective students as a CLA Diversity Ambassador.
Edwards was the first ambassador to sign on when Rachel Brooks, CLA director for diversity and inclusion initiatives, launched the program, and she later helped Brooks recruit others to join.
“I don’t want her to graduate, but I know she has to,” Brooks joked. “Of course she would do it early because she’s Chloe. I so badly don’t want her to leave, but she’s amazing. I have no other word than amazing. I could put her in any situation and she’s great on the spot, she’s great at reaching her peers and the community, she’s very involved, and she’s incredibly reliable.”
Beyond campus, Edwards also served as a member of the PATH Street Homeless Outreach team, which convened on a weekly basis to address the needs of Greater Lafayette’s homeless population.
“You have to build their trust,” Edwards said. “The more you see someone, the more you build trust with those individuals, and it was definitely eye-opening to hear their own stories and be able to connect with them on another level. All the time they would ask us, ‘So what are you in school for?’ It would also be inspiring because they would give us advice like, ‘Make sure you stay in school. You don’t want to be like me.’ Even though it was a sad situation, it was also inspiring because it was like, ‘OK, let me go home and do some homework now.’”
Motivated by a conference speaker during her freshman year, Edwards also helped start a Purdue chapter of Jewels Incorporated, an organization founded in 2007 at Howard University to empower urban girls through education, training, and activism.
Edwards and her friends visited each week with members of the African American Leaders of Tomorrow Club at Lafayette’s Jefferson High School, offering encouragement on subjects such as self-love and education.
“We went over so many important topics and lessons that they need in their everyday lives, but they’re not taught in high school, necessarily,” Edwards said. “It was so awesome to be able to build relationships with those young ladies.”
That giving spirit extends even to her career aspirations. Since childhood, Edwards has planned to someday enter a profession that Findling knows well: law.
“I have always wanted to advocate for equal justice, fight for my peers, and to be able to pull out the necessary facts,” Edwards said. “There have been so many instances where youth have gotten life sentences for something that they had no control over, or they lacked the resources, or were born into the wrong situation. I’ve always wanted to advocate for them.”
Asked whether she could envision Edwards someday thriving in that line of work, Brooks pointed out that she is already doing advocacy work as an undergraduate. That gives her confidence that Edwards will one day become a successful lawyer – or succeed in any other profession that allows her to channel that passion to help others.
“As part of the Diversity Ambassador program, she receives training on how to have those conversations. She’s taken part in those trainings. And then on the other side of it, telling people about diversity, equity, and inclusion, she goes out into the community and mentors. She’s also doing that through Jewels,” said Brooks, who serves as chapter advisor. “Even with Jewels, all I did was provide a listening ear and some suggestions. Chloe did that work firsthand on the ground, and she wanted to do it because she felt like it was important to mentor other young women of color.
“So, I don’t doubt that she’s going to be great as a lawyer or anything that Chloe wants to do. She has a Midas touch. Anything that she touches will turn to gold because that’s just who she is.”