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When Bill met Lee

Philanthropy In Action

Nearly 65 years ago, Lee Marshall, a “tall, lanky” recruiter from Fenn College made an odd trek to Franklin, Pennsylvania, a town of roughly 10,000, halfway between Pittsburg and Erie.

Bill Blum (BES ’64) called Franklin home and, at the time, was a high school junior or senior. After nearly seven decades, the details are hazy. But what he does remember clearly is meeting with Lee along with several other classmates and his guidance counselor. He remembers how Lee talked about a college in Cleveland named Fenn College, the majors it offered and the co-ops that were available for students.

“That last thing — co-op — immediately got me interested because I knew my parents could not afford to send me to college,” Bill said.

“I was the oldest child of my family with five younger sisters.”

He knew that his parents wanted him to attend college and what Lee offered seemed too good a deal to ignore. 

So, he applied. Got a scholarship for the first quarter. Saved money for room and board. And, in September 1959, made the trek from Franklin to Cleveland to start classes at Fenn.

As it turns out, Lee got around.

“I quickly learned that many of my fellow students had heard about Fenn in a manner very much like my story,” Bill said.

“That is, the tall lanky Fenn College recruiter had also visited their high school and introduced them to Fenn the same way he did for me.”

Bill says Lee changed his life.

For one, he met his wife, Charleen, then a student at St. John’s School of Nursing at a dance in Fenn Tower’s Panel Hall. The two would go on to have three kids.

And his time at Fenn produced a storied career that includes classified engineering work for the likes of the NSA and the CIA.

It’s given him a lot to be thankful for — how his life would have been very different if Lee hadn’t walked in his life.

So, he and Charleen established the Lee A. Marshal Memorial Endowed Scholarship for students like him. First-generation students in STEM, full of potential with bright futures ahead of them.

“Lee made it possible for many of us first-generation college students to get started on our life’s journey,” the now-Dr. Blum said.

He hopes he’ll be able to do the same.

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