Trent Pysarchik Internship Endowment

Trent Pysarchik arrived at MSU as a freshman in 2004 and passed away in 2011 due to complications from the very health conditions that initiated his RCPD involvement. He is remembered as loving, caring and determined and is celebrated for maintaining a positive outlook throughout the challenges he faced. 

We are honored to join Trent’s family in offering scholarships supporting quality internships that help students gain real-world experiences culminating in rewarding careers.

Awards are determined by endowment capacity and will generally produce scholarships in excess of $2000.  

Recipients are encouraged to recognize this program as an investment in ability and are in turn challenged to invest in others by contributing as a donor to this program as they achieve success in a professional career.

Trent Pysarchik

Victor Troubalos Scholarship

The Victor Troubalos Scholarship was established by Victor’s late sister, Anastasia. The son of Michigan State University alumnus, Dr. Stephen Troubalos (MSU ’40), Victor Troubalos was born in 1951 in Milford, Connecticut. Victor experienced significant brain trauma at birth. Despite considerable cognitive and learning difficulties throughout his short sixteen-year life, Victor enjoyed spending time with family and friends, especially his sister Anastasia.

Though Victor himself never got the chance to attend college, the Troubalos Scholarship annually recognizes young individuals who, much like Victor, have not allowed their disability to preclude their dreams. The Troubalos Scholarship is awarded by the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to students reaching academic success, despite disability.

Victor’s father, Dr. Stephen Troubalos, was a renowned ophthalmologist and retina surgeon who graduated from MSU in 1940 and who subsequently attended the Marquette School of Medicine. Along with maintaining a private practice in New York City, Milford (CT), and Boston, Dr. Troubalos was an instructor at Manhattan Eye and Ear, New York Hospital and Cornell Medical Center, and was an Assistant Professor at Yale University. Prior to his retirement in 1982, Dr. Troubalos, who was a WW-II era Captain in the Army Medical Corps, was Chief Ophthalmologist at the Veterans’ Administration in Boston.

Dr. Troubalos’ aspirations were achieved through perseverance, hard work, and, importantly, his education. He recalled with special fondness his days at Michigan State, where he first discovered his interests in science and medicine and where he chose to establish a scholarship fund to honor and support Spartans for generations to come.

Students who successfully complete the Stern Tutoring and Alternative Techniques for Education (STATE) Program become eligible to apply for this scholarship. Application information is shared with the participants of that program. 

This donor-supported program provides awareness and expanded opportunity for persons with disabilities. You can help support this initiative or find out more about other RCPD programs and donation opportunities by visiting the Make a Gift page.

Student Leadership and Service Award

The Student Leadership and Service Award recognizes outstanding leadership within the RCPD and broader community. These students uphold MSU core values of quality, inclusiveness and connectivity as they prepare for lives of purpose.

The Student Leadership and Service Award was created in honor of:

  • Jack Shingleton – World War II veteran, served MSU in many ways including as Director of Placement, Assistant Director of Personnel, Acting Athletic Director, Interim Director of Alumni Relations, and MSU Trustee. His mentorship of each RCPD Director emphasized the significance of leadership and service in creating optimal organizational and professional success.
  • Marge Chmielewski – RCPD Director 1994-1999 – A mentor to many.


Learn about past award recipients here!

Spirit of Ability Award

The Spirit of Ability Award commemorates the empowering heritage of founders who saw beyond disabilities. They opened higher education to people whose disabilities were commonly perceived to preclude excellence. Honorees are contemporary leaders who continue this MSU tradition of creating vibrant environments that welcome, fortify, and compassionately challenge each person to reach their fullest ability.

The Spirit of Ability Award was created in honor of:

Photo of May Shaw

May Shaw

1934 founder of Tower Guard, an organization creating greater accessibility through service.

Photo of Judy Gentile

Judy Gentile

1971 founding Director of today’s RCPD. A dynamic leader and change agent with remarkable character, vision and leadership that transformed MSU.

James Hamilton

Associate Provost, researcher, and administrative leader who vigorously advanced diversity and inclusion. Dr. Hamilton selected Judy Gentile as founding Director of RCPD, opening the door for persons with significant disabilities to pursue their dreams with an MSU education.

Dorothy Milbrook

OPHS (now RCPD) Receptionist 1979-1985. Dorothy's life ended early in a tragic automobile accident but her spirit lives on as one who empowered students through a warm, welcoming and affirming presence that made MSU and the RCPD home for new and returning students alike.

Photo of James Bristor

James Bristor

An energetic professor and community organizer who dedicated his teaching, research and service to ensuring people with disabilities engaged fully, especially in areas related to recreation and physical activity.

Outstanding Alumni Award

The Outstanding Alumni Award recognizes the accomplishments, leadership, and dedication of MSU graduates who make significant contributions to their field. Their many achievements illustrate the power of education, persistence, and creativity in reaching life goals. We are honored to call them Spartans and thank them for applying their education to the betterment of society.

Learn about more past award recipients here!

Help us write the next chapter: Nominate someone for an award!

Outstanding Alumni Award 2018 Recipient

Natalie Grupido

Gallaudet University
B.A. Elementary Education – 1990

Michigan State University
M.A. Special Education – 1995
Deaf Education Major, Deaf-Blind Minor

Gallaudet University
Ed.S.: Change Leadership in Education – 2010

Michigan State University
Certification: Educational Administration – 2017

Principal of Michigan School for the Deaf
2016 - Present

Natalie Grupido has over 20 years of experience as an educator and mentor, as well as an American Sign Language Coordinator, adjunct instructor, and Deaf Studies Instructor. Since graduating from MSU in 1995, Natalie has taught deaf, deaf-blind, and hearing children, and their families, in self-contained classrooms, co-op classrooms, mainstream classrooms, and a residential setting. She has educated hundreds of people from ages 5 – 26, providing instruction in American Sign Language (ASL), English, global studies, history, mathematics, geometry, life skills, humanities, and communication.

In 2015, Natalie returned to MSU to obtain certification in Educational Administration, while continuing to teach. She also became one of a diverse group of stakeholders involved in a structured dialogue process to re-imagine the Michigan Department of Education’s School for the Deaf (MSD). Her knowledge of language development, ASL, the need for linguistic proficiency, and the importance of having a language barrier-free environment, added value to the process. Natalie also clarified the
challenges of operating MSD as a state agency instead of an academic setting, and recognized the challenges of hiring teachers with ASL fluency and appropriate teaching credentials. Natalie provided a new perspective, insights, and solutions to re-imagine the Michigan School for the Deaf.

In 2016, Natalie’s diverse experience, perspective on the ability of all students to learn, unique approach to teaching and learning, and her leadership capabilities elevated her to her current position, as the principal for the Michigan School for the Deaf. Natalie is often quoted as “What is life but a series of lessons to learn and grow?” She focuses on the lessons in life for her students to learn and to foster their growth.

Natalie Grupido

Outstanding Alumni Award 2017 Recipient

Brett Kopf

Michigan State University
B.S. Food Industry Management, Specialization in Connected Learning, 2009

Co-Founder, Remind
San Francisco, California

Brett Kopf has had a very successful career since graduating from MSU in 2009. Shortly after receiving his degree he introduced Remind, an e-mail and text message platform launched exclusively at MSU. He reported that he “created the product out of need as a student,” but later realized it could help other students stay on track with assignments and class activities.

After securing an initial $30k investment, in true Spartan fashion, Brett planted a seed that has now grown into a renowned school messaging platform. His locally-grown, successful business employs 70 people, serving 90% of K-12 schools in America, and is routinely used by 40% of America’s K-12 teachers. Today, Remind is helping 20 million teachers, parents and students work for better academic outcomes.

Brett reflects back on how his most inspirational teacher, Mrs. Denise Whitefield, saw his needs and connected with him and his family, helping him advance and ultimately triggering his awareness that his insights might hold the key to helping create more success stories. Through Remind, he is leading a platform that increases connectivity and engagement between teachers, students and parents to help ensure students with diverse learning needs are not left behind. He used his learning differences, positive experiences, and his MSU education as a call for innovation. Like other outstanding alumni, he leveraged his differences to build techniques that addressed his needs while helping others move past similar challenges.

Brett Kopf has been featured in Forbes, Venturebeat, CNBC, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed, Fastcompany, and the New York Times. He is an innovative and persistent visionary who exemplifies the Spartan spirit both personally and professionally.

Listen to this Michigan Radio interview to hear more about Brett's story.

Brett Kopf

Outstanding Alumni Award 2016 Recipient

Christopher Dunckle

Michigan State University
B.S. Physics & Mathematics, 2007

University of California
M.S. Physics, 2010
Ph.D. Physics, 2014

Senior Process Engineer
Intel Corporation
Hillsboro, OR

By the end of his time at MSU, Christopher earned three undergraduate degrees; Physics, Math, and a minor in Secondary Education, earning almost all 4.0 grades. He devoted his time to many extracurricular activities as President of the MSU Tower Guard Organization, a member of the Mortar Board Honor Society, and a member of the Men’s Glee Club. He was immersed in new cultures during his time studying abroad in Russia with the help of the Cole International Study Abroad Scholarship. He also was a Physics Teaching Assistant and an RCPD Electronic Text Manager.

After leaving Spartan Country, he journeyed to the University of California-Irvine, where he received a two-year National Science Foundation grant to earn his Master’s Degree and Ph.D. He was the President, Vice President, and Council Member of the UCI Associated Graduate Students, as well as a Graduate Student Researcher. He led higher education policy initiatives at both state and federal levels.

At Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, Oregon, Christopher focuses on developing cutting-edge processes in microchip production as the Senior Process Engineer. This highly technical responsibility requires him to apply both classroom and life skills to prioritize, maintain focus and balance, and complete goals in a demanding and prestigious environment.

Christopher Dunckle

Outstanding Alumni Award 2015 Recipient

Kurt Driscoll

Kirkland Community College
Associates, Mechanical Drafting, 1994

Michigan State University
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1997

Lawrence Technological University
MBA, International Business, 2011

Validation Engineer, Safety and Regulations
Faurecia Automotive Seating

As a pioneer in the engineering world, Kurt Driscoll is living and leading a career characterized by noteworthy contributions despite the challenges he lives daily. Kurt Driscoll arrived at MSU in 1994 ambitiously determined to become a mechanical engineer, and thus his partnership with the then Office of Programs for Handicapper Students was forged.

Work in the field of engineering is rich with opportunity yet ready with challenges. As a mechanical engineering major, he challenged a good number of first impressions one may have given his quadriplegia. The physical challenges that are a part of Kurt’s life demanded creativity and effective problem solving skills to develop solutions throughout his life. He strategized how technology and a few close personal assistants would help him unleash his potential and foster a career he hungered for. Kurt mastered problem solving in his personal life and now shares his talents through the automotive seating industry.

Kurt’s first job following graduation from MSU came in 1998. Throughout his developing career, he grew capacity by fulfilling responsibilities as Project Engineer and Test Engineer. He continues to use skills from multiple engineering trades such as electrical, material, packaging, and mechanical. Today, at Faurecia, Kurt is in charge of safety and regulation compliance for all new seating products in North America.

Kurt reports, “That, along with the steadfast support from my wife, Marissa, and the support of friends and family, some determination and hard work, and a willingness to confront changes and view them as opportunities, have all contributed greatly to my success.” With an eye on professional advancement and continued personal growth, Kurt returned to school to diversify his abilities obtaining an MBA in 2011.

Kurt Driscoll is one of those people who is hard to forget as he exemplifies the power of higher education to solve problems, increase quality of life, and is a beacon to us all to realize that disabilities need not preclude the achievement of goals and dreams.  Throughout the past 20 years Kurt never lost sight of the possibility and has delivered a noteworthy set of accomplishments that make us proud to call him an outstanding Spartan.

Kurt Driscoll

Outstanding Alumni Award 2014 Recipient

Daehee Lee

Michigan State University
Ph.D. Linguistics, 1997
M.S. Computer Science, 1996
M.A. Linguistics, 1990

Principal NLP Research Engineer
Natural Language Understanding Lab
Nuance Communications, Inc.
Sunnyvale, California
Software Engineer for Google 2015 – present
Mountain View, CA

An accomplished engineer and leader within the community of people with disabilities, Daehee Lee's professional career was forged with a sense of purpose and a decisive choice to pursue and complete 3 advanced degrees at Michigan State University. 

His professional accomplishments span multiple sectors beginning with creation of innovative assistive technologies for people with disabilities through leadership today driving some of the most technically advanced concepts. He is enabling computers to become more humanlike in their ability to listen, process and respond using spoken language. We celebrate his sustained contributions leveraging an MSU education to develop some of today’s most interesting technologies. Beyond education and a vibrant career, he is a dedicated husband to Gemhee and father of three accomplished adult children.

Dr. Daehee Lee

Tower Guard Scholarship

This endowment supports the students of Tower Guard, the sophomore honor organization that has, since the 1930s, facilitated academic success for MSU students with visual impairments.  Each year the Tower Guard selects approximately 80 students from the top academic performers of MSU’s freshman class to be members. They are scholastically dedicated, consistently active, hard-working students who pledge to volunteer at least 120 hours helping students with print-related disabilities access exams and other print materials. 

Scholarships are provided annually to assist exceptional Tower Guard volunteers in mitigating financial pressures. 

For more information about the MSU Tower Guard visit their website.

This donor-supported program provides awareness and expanded opportunity for persons with disabilities. You can help support this initiative or find out more about other RCPD programs and donation opportunities by visiting the Make a Gift page.

Education Abroad Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

This scholarship is funded in partnership with MSU Office for Education Abroad. This scholarship recognizes the value of studying abroad and international travel, activities that lead to acquisition of important personal skills and knowledge resulting in a more competitive resume for a future job market. Students participating in the program who are selected to receive this scholarship will typically be awarded at least $2,000. 

To be eligible for consideration you must:

  1. Be a student with a documented disability
  2. Have applied to a future, credit-bearing MSU education abroad program
  3. Meet the eligibility criteria for the program

Please use the ​MSU Scholarships System to apply for the Education Abroad Scholarship for Students with Disabilities.

Five formally-dressed individuals pose for a photo in front of a grey background

Education Abroad Scholarship Recipients with RCPD Ability Access Specialist, John Pedraza, and MSU Office for Education Abroad representative, Max Chappuis, at the 2019 RCPD Awards and Appreciation Reception. Read more about these students' adventures on RCPD's Ability Blog

RCPD Education Abroad: First-Hand Student Experiences

Shawn M. Koch Memorial Scholarship

An alum of the College of Arts and Letters, Shawn Koch was known for his voracious appetite for knowledge. With support and guidance from his parents, Shawn’s intellectual curiosity enriched his ability to learn from those around him. Appreciative of a wide range of people, viewpoints and cultures, Shawn ventured on a study abroad to Ecuador during his senior year. It was an experience that led him to countless other journeys throughout his life. 

Shawn M. Koch

Shawn lost his battle with brain cancer at 34 years of age. He remains an ambassador for MSU as an embodiment of Spartan leadership. Family and friends established the Shawn M. Koch Memorial Fund to recognize students whose lives have been directly impacted by cancer and who share Shawn’s intellectual curiosity, leadership skills, work ethic, tenacity, and ability to positively impact the world. 

Eligibility and Awards

The Shawn M. Koch Memorial Scholarship is available to students at either the undergraduate or graduate level and in any declared or undeclared University major. Applicants shall demonstrate financial need with priority given to MSU students whose lives have been directly impacted by cancer, either personally or through a family member or friend. Recipients are normally selected during the spring semester, with awards effective the following fall semester. Award size is based on endowment performance with anticipation for at least $2,500.

This donor-supported program provides awareness and expanded opportunity for persons with disabilities. You can help support this initiative or find out more about other RCPD programs and giving opportunities by visiting the Make a Gift page.

Please use the RCPD Scholarship System to apply for the Shawn M. Koch Memorial Scholarship.

Samaritan Scholar Award

Maximizing Potential -- Advancing Excellence

Established by MSU alumni Jim and Judy DeLapa, the Samaritan Foundation has generously assisted students for more than two decades. In 2003, the Foundation began offering scholarships through the RCPD, providing educational support to sophomores, juniors and seniors with disabilities, and distinguishing itself by offering the first scholarship for MSU undergraduate students with disabilities.

The scholarship is presented in the amount of $4,000 and is awarded to students who are also United States citizens demonstrating financial need.

Recipients are encouraged to recognize this program as an investment in ability and are in turn challenged to invest in others by contributing as a donor to this program as they achieve success in a professional career.

This donor-supported program provides awareness and expanded opportunity for persons with disabilities. You can help support this initiative or find out more about other RCPD programs and giving opportunities by visiting the Make a Gift page.

2016 Samaritan Scholars with Ability Access Specialist Ginger Martz.

Samaritan Scholar Awards in Action

  • For recipient Jamia Davis, this scholarship means encouragement and assistance in reaching her dream of one day becoming a lawyer.
  • Aaron Scheidies, the first blind athlete to finish an Olympic-distance triathlon in less than two hours, was a Samaritan Scholar while a student at Michigan State University.
  • The introduction of annual scholarships through this endowment created the first monetary reward for undergraduate students of the RCPD.

Robert L. Decker and Benjamin Muns Friendship Memorial Scholarship

The Robert L. Decker and Benjamin Muns Friendship Memorial Scholarship is awarded in memory and recognition of two Ford Motor Company executives who worked together and, as friends, died together in a small airplane crash in June, 1990.

The two men were committed to increasing productivity while enriching the quality of the work-place environment. Their wives created this scholarship to facilitate the continuance of the zest for life, concern for others, ideals and goals held by the two.  This memorial provides graduate study opportunities and recognizes contributions of graduate students with disabilities.  

2016 Samaritan Scholars with Ability Access Specialist Ginger Martz.

The Robert L. Decker and Benjamin Muns Friendship Memorial Scholarship is awarded in the spring to a qualified student with a disability enrolled in a graduate degree program at Michigan State University for the following fall, spring or summer semester. Based on endowment performance, the scholarship generally produces two or more scholarships of approximately $5,000 each.

Winners are selected by review of applicant achievement in a variety of areas including: academics, quality of references, clear definition of goals, pre-professional achievements including demonstrated leadership ability, demonstrated financial need, and quality and coherence of written essays. Recipients are encouraged to recognize this program as an investment in ability and are in turn challenged to invest in others by contributing as a donor to this program as they achieve success in a professional career.

Muns and his wife
Mrs. and Mr. Benjamin Muns.
Decker and wife.
Mrs. and Mr. Robert Decker.

This donor-supported program provides awareness and expanded opportunity for persons with disabilities. You can help support this initiative or find out more about other RCPD programs and giving opportunities by visiting the Make a Gift page.

Please use the RCPD Scholarship System to apply for the Robert L. Decker and Benjamin Muns Friendship Memorial Scholarship.

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