Stevens Rises with Relief Fund

During the pandemic, alumni and friends are supporting a relief fund for students in need.

The warnings started in January. Campus leaders sent alerts about a strange new virus. By March, the disease had spread to metro New York. On a Wednesday evening, the country shuddered when President Trump announced an emergency travel ban, Tom Hanks said he was sick, and the NBA cancelled games. The next day, Stevens moved classes online for the rest of the semester. The day after that, Hoboken reported its first case.

Such is the speed by which the coronavirus pandemic shocked communities across the country, including the one at Castle Point. But the Stevens community has responded to the crisis with agility, fortitude, compassion, and philanthropy.

The Stevens Rises Relief Fund supports students affected by the pandemic, especially those facing sudden financial distress.

“This fund has provided emergency support for some of our students who had significant financial need,” said Sara Klein, the assistant vice president for student affairs. “A number of our students experienced unemployment (their own or their parents) and faced food and housing insecurity, while others were struggling with internet connectivity while trying to log into courses. The Stevens Rises Relief Fund allows us to provide immediate support to each of these students during a difficult time.”

“These unprecedented times have presented a lot of uncertainty within my family,” reported a student who received assistance (and who shall remain anonymous). “With the funds provided to me, I can proudly say that a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders because food is now one less thing we have to worry about. We truly appreciate the generosity and urgency to help.

”Another challenge involves lack of internet access at home, making it hard for students to engage with online classes. The Stevens Rises Relief Fund has provided wi-fi hotspots. “I have many younger siblings who are required to be on video chat the whole day and our internet often goes out,” a student said. “Many times, I have to wait to view recorded classes after the fact or call in on my phone unable to see my professors or the work being completed. I’ll now be able to attend all my classes on time without interruption!”

The Stevens Rises webpage was live by April 15, following quick collaborative work by multiple campus offices who were also suddenly working remotely. Thus far, more than 900 individuals, including dozens of students, have raised more than $100,000 and counting for the fund.

Early on, John Dearborn ’79 M.Eng. ’81 appealed to fellow members of the Board of Trustees about seeding the Stevens RisesRelief Fund. “This pandemic,” Dearborn wrote, “has impacted us all in one way or another from the loss of loved ones or those in our communities, inability to visit with friends, family, and work associates among many other changes to the life we once knew. In this time of need, I am hopeful that some of the more fortunate would be willing to pay it forward to help Stevens students who are really in need.”

Joan Sitler ’87 is another alum who gave, both for herself and for her family: husband Edward ’87, daughter Julianne ’18, and son Justin ’19, who is staying at Stevens to pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering.

“The Stevens motto per aspera ad astra (through adversity to the stars) really spoke to me during this pandemic,” Sitler said. “The world has seen so much adversity because of the coronavirus, and I felt there was so much beyond my control or ability to help. The Stevens Rises Relief Fund gave me the opportunity to give back to the community that has meant so much to my entire family. Hopefully this fund will allow students to continue to strive for the stars.”

Klein said that while the Stevens Rises Relief Fund has already helped several students, there will still be a need for support throughout the year.“ As long as the pandemic is an issue, we will have students in need of support,” Klein said. “No matter what, we are committed to making sure they can stay on track to complete their education.”

We will continue to call upon those who have the interest, passion, and financial ability to provide our students stability during these difficult times. To learn more about supporting the Stevens Rises Relief Fund, please visit or contact Matt Gwin at [email protected] or 201-216-3346.