LHU professors Dr. Shonah Hunter and her retired husband, Dr. Ralph Harnishfeger, established the Hunter-Harnishfeger Family Scholarship in 2018.
Lock Haven University biology professors, Dr. Shonah Hunter and her husband Dr. Ralph Harnishfeger, came to LHU in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Hunter is set to enter her 32nd year at LHU in the fall. Harnishfeger taught for 28 years and retired in 2018. It was also in 2018, that they donated $36,000 to establish the Hunter-Harnishfeger Family Scholarship to annually award exemplary biology students transitioning from their freshman to sophomore year.
The daughter of educators and Christian missionaries, Hunter started the scholarship in honor of her mother who passed away in 2017, just a few weeks shy of her 101st birthday.
“Education has always been transformational for our family,” Hunter said. “This was a great way to celebrate students making the most of their education.”
Hunter was inspired to establish the scholarship after a conversation with one of her students in which she learned that although the student was receiving financial aid, she was still struggling to afford her tuition. That student ultimately became the scholarship’s first recipient.
Each year, a new recipient is selected, however, the scholarship also follows previous recipients from sophomore to junior to senior year. In 2019 a second biology student was selected. In the 2020-21 school year, a third recipient will be selected, and all three students will each receive $1,000 toward the cost of earning their degree.
Hunter and Harnishfeger also continue to add to the fund so that it will become sustainable.
“It’s very rewarding to feel like you’ve played a role in someone having a better life,” Harnishfeger said. “We’ve always felt that education was one of the most important things in life. Here in Pennsylvania, the research shows that education makes all the difference for middle- and low-income students.”
Another issue that Hunter and Harnishfeger are passionate about is food insecurity, and they frequently contribute to Lock Haven University’s food pantry, The Haven Cupboard.
The Haven Cupboard provides non-perishable food items to LHU students in need. During the spring semester The Haven Cupboard served approximately 65 students per week, according to Dr. Amy Downes, assistant director of LHU’s Center for Excellence and Inclusion. The cupboard continues to serve about 40 students each week, even though the semester has ended.
Hunter and Harnishfeger frequently contribute supermarket gift cards to afford students access to perishable foods like meats, produce, milk and other dairy products.
“I grew up in Jamaica so I’ve always been aware of food insecurity and passionate about helping people who are in need of food,” Hunter said. “A lot of people don’t realize how food insecure many of our students are. It’s very gratifying to know that we can help them.”
Downes, who runs The Haven Cupboard, lauded Hunter and Harnishfeger for their generosity and commitment to LHU students.
“They both understand that academic performance, retention, and overall well-being are significantly impacted when students do not have enough food that is nutritionally adequate,” Downes said. “Their support has helped to feed and show love for many students at LHU.
Hunter and Harnishfeger proudly describe themselves as a Lock Haven University family. Both of their children are LHU graduates. Their son is currently pursuing a second degree at LHU in secondary education math.
“We’re very committed to LHU,” Hunter said. “We have so many wonderful students here. They get a great education and we’re glad that our scholarship might help some students that otherwise might not be able to complete their degree.”
“We have a great system, a great department and a great community here at Lock Haven University,” Harnishfeger added. “I wish more people knew what a hidden gem Lock Haven University is.”