Practicing need-blind admissions, Beloit has long taken care of the financial need of exceptional incoming students, but two donors want to be sure the College can encourage, reward, and retain students whose true colors emerge well into their education.
Judith Miller’72 and her husband, Peter Buscemi, have launched a major new initiative within the Beloit College scholarship program. With the creation of the Jane Quisenberry Wirtz’35 and W. Willard Wirtz’33 Endowed Scholarship Fund, they wish to honor the excellence and service exemplified by the Wirtzes by recognizing students who demonstrate the same high standards during their tenure at Beloit.
Miller served on the College’s board of trustees with Mrs. Wirtz for the first two decades of her 30-year tenure. The two women, both Washington, D.C., residents, usually flew to Beloit together and became quite good friends, as did their husbands.
Though 40 years apart, the couples had much in common, having pursued distinguished careers and public service in both Washington and Beloit. Willard Wirtz, after graduating from Harvard Law School, taught at Northwestern University and later began his own law practice. In 1962, he was tapped by President John F. Kennedy to serve as Secretary of Labor, a post he held through the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. For three decades after leaving the cabinet, he continued to work as a law professor and maintained an active Washington, D.C., private practice. Wirtz maintains close ties to Beloit and will celebrate his 75th reunion in 2008.
Jane Quisenberry Wirtz, a Beloit College trustee for more than 30 years, was a volunteer leader in several national organizations, including the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, the Board of Higher Education, and Goodwill Industries, of which she served as national chair. Widely regarded as a lively and accomplished couple, the Wirtzes were well-known and socially active in Washington, D.C., well into their 80s. Jane Quisenberry Wirtz passed away in 2002.
Miller – after graduating from Yale Law School in 1975 – clerked for Associate Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and served in the Department of Defense, joining the Washington law firm of Williams and Connolly in 1979. Miller returned to government service for more than five years during the 1990s, when she was appointed to the position of general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense. In 2006, she left private practice to join Bechtel Corporation as senior vice president and general counsel.
Buscemi, the only one of the foursome who didn’t graduate from Beloit, has built a distinguished career in Washington, D.C., as a litigator, with extensive experience in appellate work, having argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court and numerous cases in the federal circuit courts. He is a partner in the Morgan Lewis law firm. He started his career as a law clerk to Judge Carl McGowan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Judge McGowan was a close friend of the Wirtzes, and a former colleague of Bill Wirtz on the faculty of Northwestern Law School.
Miller and Buscemi hope that the announcement of the award will inspire similar gifts by others and that meaningful merit scholarships endowed by donors and awarded by faculty will become a standard across all academic departments.
They envision a program that opens communication between the department chair, who reports on each year’s recipients, and all department alumni, while also opening participation to others who want to help students directly and strengthen the endowment. It is an approach that unites alumni and students in fresh and meaningful ways. It is a call to new excellence at Beloit College.