Dr. John Warkentin

Alumnus Honors the Past, Funds the Future Through Scholarship Endowment

Growing up in Queens in the 1950s and 60s, John Warkentin ’70 knew one constant in his parents’ house: an emphasis on education.

“Education was the most important aspect of our lives growing up,” Warkentin recalled. “We were encouraged to read, to go to the library, to do our best in school. We didn’t have to get the highest grades if it wasn’t possible, but effort was looked upon very carefully.”

Still, when the time came for John and his siblings to go to college, the cost was a concern.

“My parents were traditional middle-class for the era,” Warkentin replied, “but they didn’t have a lot of resources, and private colleges were not an option at that point for us. Fortunately, we found a public university solution that was right around the corner. We were very fortunate to have that there.”

John followed his sister Anne and brother Michael to Stony Brook, living with them off campus in a small cottage their parents had built as a summer home. A New York State Regents scholarship enabled him to attend Stony Brook tuition-free, setting him on the path that would lead to more than four decades practicing pulmonary medicine in Richmond, Va.

“It was a young university at the time,” Dr. Warkentin said but even then, I could see the seeds of greatness. The New York state government provided us with excellent administrators, and we had the best teachers around. It set the tone for excellence in the University, and that’s what happened: it evolved into a great university from its very humble but disciplined beginnings.”

Now, Warkentin is honoring his parents’ focus on education, the influence of his years at Stony Brook, and the scholarship that made that education possible with a planned gift of $4.8 million. The Warkentin Family Presidential Scholarship Endowment will support scholarships for both undergraduate and medical students at Stony Brook.

“Part of the reason for my wishing to give this scholarship is to help students who require financial aid to achieve their goals and their dreams,” Dr. Warkentin said, “and to honor the contribution of my parents to our lives, emphasizing the importance of education. I think that they would be very pleased to know that I was helping other students the way they helped me.”

And, while Stony Brook Medicine didn’t exist when Dr. Warkentin was a student — “That was a jungle,” he said of the east side of Nicolls Road — a career in medicine has made him acutely aware of the need for scholarship support.

“Physicians today are increasingly burdened by onerous debt when they get out of medical school,” Dr. Warkentin said. “It wasn’t the case when I went to medical school, but I know that the debt extracts a toll on students, knowing that they have this burden hanging over their heads when they start their professional lives. I’d like to relieve these students of at least part of their financial concerns, and allow them to focus more on what they need to do as physicians.”

Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD shares Dr. Warkentin’s understanding of the need for scholarship support in medicine, and expressed his deep appreciation for the impact of the Warkentin Family Presidential Scholarship Endowment.

“John Warkentin’s life and career are a testament to the power of a Stony Brook education,” Dr. Stanley said. “We are grateful that the Warkentin Family Presidential Scholarship Endowment will make it possible for so many other students to author their own Stony Brook success stories.”

“At Stony Brook, the life-changing impact of student scholarships is evident every day,” added Dexter A. Bailey Jr., senior vice president for University Advancement. “We are humbled by the trust and confidence exhibited by the Warkentin Family. Undoubtedly, their scholarship will  transform lives for generations of undergraduate and medical students.”

The Warkentin Family Presidential Scholarship Endowment is part of the Campaign for Stony Brook, a $600 million fundraising effort and the largest in SUNY history. To date, more than 46,100 people have donated over $578 million. Make a gift today in support of your interests and help Stony Brook affect powerful change on Long Island and around the world. What are you passionate about? Give today.

If you would like to discuss a planned gift, or wish to receive more information, please contact Meryl Cosentino, Senior Director of Gift Planning, at (631) 632-4033.

— Elliot Olshansky