First-Generation Students Find Support, Success at USciences

By Kimberly Barkhamer

Published on October 12, 2021

First Generation Students

When WICTOR PAC PharmD’22 graduates in May, he will be the first in his family to do so. Pac was inspired to pursue a degree after taking an afterschool job at his neighborhood pharmacy where he was able to serve his community and learn about caring for others. 

At USciences, where thousands of first-generation students have launched successful careers, his story is a familiar yet important one.

JESSICA COULTER Neuro’21 said learning college “lingo” was a challenge and to achieve her dream of medical school she needed to take the right classes while in her undergraduate program. “The faculty are so invested in the students here,” she said. “I always wanted to go into the health professions, but through my coursework I got to explore lots of my interests like brain injuries and eating disorders.” 

As the first in her family to attend college, TAMMY MEGEDYUK DPT’24, from California, wanted a close circle of faculty and advisors. “I can’t always go to my parents for advice about college,” Megedyuk said, “ I have resources on campus and someone is always there for me when I need help.”

Megedyuk is a resident advisor on campus and works between two to three other jobs, to help contribute to her expenses. She is grateful her professors are very understanding.

Approximately a third of USciences undergraduate students are the first in their families to attend college. Most are reliant on grants and scholarships to support from relatives, loans, and employment to pay for their education expenses.


Graph 1Graph 2











First-generation students typically receive less financial support from parents or relatives when compared to other students, so are more likely to hold employment on- or off-campus. Juggling a demanding schedule of courses with additional employment has the potential to negatively impact students in the classroom. This is why a recent gift from the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation in support of scholarships for first-generation students is so meaningful. 

The Newcombe Foundation has been supporting USciences’ students for decades through the Matthew J. Wilson Endowed Scholarship Fund, established in 1983 and named in memory of Newcombe’s father, a graduate of Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in the class of 1881.

This summer, the Newcombe Foundation expanded its support and awarded USciences a $50,000 challenge grant in recognition of the services the University provides for first-generation students and “to mitigate some of their unmet financial needs.” A challenge grant requires the University to fundraise another $50,000.

ROB RUDD, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, said many alumni are first-generation graduates themselves or children of first-generation graduates of USciences. “I hear stories of perseverance because our programs are tough, but most of all, I hear gratitude for an education which provided a great career and a great life,” said Rudd.  

Many endowed scholarships at USciences were started by alumni who had similar experiences. Endowed funds ensure support in perpetuity making it possible for a gift today to impact many generations. The principal gift is invested and the interest earnings are spent each year on the scholarship. Over time, the investment grows and so does the scholarship. 

A recent gift from SHERYL MILLER contributed to the Mildred and David Miller Endowed Scholarship Fund, created by her parents in 1983. It also surfaced a 70-year-old story of two young first-generation Jewish Americans and their education at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. 

David and Mildred Miller

MILDRED BOGUSLAV (class of 1948) convinced her future husband, DAVID MILLER (class of 1949), to join her at pharmacy school. Mildred, a brilliant student, received dozens of merit scholarships. She recognized David’s aptitude for science and tutored him, often lending him her class notes from courses she had already completed. 

In 1951, they opened a pharmacy in North Philadelphia which they lived above. Mildred did the compounding by hand and they were well-liked in the community; they knew all of their neighbors and customers. To help one of his regular customers, a struggling young stockbroker, David bought a few shares in several pharmaceutical companies. This act of kindness paid off years later as stock values increased. 

The Miller’s decided to give back to the college which had given so much to them. Without Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the Miller’s would not have been able to achieve their dreams of starting a pharmacy and medical practice.  Now, thanks to their generosity, the Mildred and David Miller Endowed Scholarship Fund has been awarding scholarships for over 40 years, and their legacy for caring for the community lives on

Sheryl recalls, “when my parents passed away, I was astonished by the number of North Philadelphia residents that wrote to me. They each remembered such specific heartwarming details about my mom and dad. They were truly loved by their clients and patients.”  

From the same community, about 70 years later, perhaps close to where Miller’s Drugs used to stand, Pac rode his bicycle 10 miles to USciences - over one hour each way - to save money on housing. He now lives near campus, in a fraternity house, and is excited to graduate to begin his career. For Pac and the other first-generation students on campus, they feel the sacrifices they and their families have made will be worth it.

If you are interested in supporting scholarships for first-generation students, please contact Rob Rudd via email at or call 215-596-8948. 

Categories: News, Misher College of Arts and Sciences, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Samson College of Health Sciences, Students