“It was very tough for my parents to absorb when I switched to philosophy and literature from honors electrical engineering as a freshman at Purdue,” Tom Scholl (LA’70, HDR LA’14) says.
Although his parents might not have understood at the time, Scholl knew he had an unfulfilled passion for the arts. As a Purdue student, he spent nights and weekends at the library searching for books by fiction writers, poets, or philosophers he had never heard of, as well as writing poetry and drinking late-night coffee with professors like Barriss Mills, a poet and English professor at the university.
After obtaining his philosophy degree in 1970, Scholl became a successful entrepreneur and investor involved in more than 60 startups. He has six patents relating to software, the internet, and digital telephone systems, and he is the author of “Packet Switching” in McGraw Hill’s Electronic Communications Handbook.
Some of the many hats Scholl has worn over the years include being a member of the board of advisors for Purdue’s Philosophy Department and the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council, which he currently chairs.
“The Philosophy board had a meeting to discuss how things were going with current students and faculty,” Scholl says. “One of our members said she thought figuring out how to get summer internships for philosophy students might be even more meaningful than scholarship money. I agreed, so I spoke to the Liberal Arts dean and the Philosophy head. They encouraged me.”
Inspired by his passion for philosophy and desire to help students succeed, Scholl committed $250,000 to endow the Thomas H. Scholl Internship for Philosophy Students in August 2022. “I want to help students who might find themselves in the same situation I was,” he says.
By creating endowments that combine scholarship and internship support, Scholl wants to encourage students to seek out unique learning situations that will offer meaningful, practical experiences to prepare them for out-of-the box career options after graduation.
The Thomas H. Scholl Internship for Philosophy Students is designed to assist majors in the Department of Philosophy, increasing their professional profiles by arranging internships and providing corresponding stipends. It supplements the existing Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. Scholarship in Philosophy and the Thomas H. Scholl Philosophy Scholarship programs by offering recipients a choice of established internships coupled with financial assistance.
“These will not be sinecure summer jobs,” Scholl explains. “These will be internships that change lives.”
The Department of Philosophy is committed to building relationships with world-class corporations that will employ students and provide game-changing experiences. In addition, the department will cultivate research opportunities with faculty that can be offered in lieu of an external internship if the Scholl or Daniels scholar prefers.
“I don’t think there is another university in the U.S. that has an endowment like this,” Scholl says. “This is a first, and I like doing things that are firsts! I can’t wait to see where this goes. Once again, Purdue will be a change maker for its students because of the dedication of its faculty and leadership.”
Christopher Yeomans, head of the Department of Philosophy at Purdue, says he wants to make sure deserving students will get the internships they need to make a difference on their resumes. Yeomans believes the scholarship endowment created by Scholl lifts students’ financial burdens while providing them opportunities for post-graduation employment at top firms.
“The Thomas H. Scholl Internship for Philosophy Students makes it possible for students to dive deep into the study of philosophy with the confidence that they will come out the other side well-positioned for their futures,” Yeomans says.
The stipend from the internship endowment will be given after the recipient’s sophomore or junior year and is intended to supplement compensation, relocation, housing, and living expenses that may not otherwise be covered, especially in a low-paid or unpaid internship. The size of the stipend will be partially determined by the compensation that comes with the specific internship as well as cost-of-living and relocation expenses. The total stipend could be as much as $4,500 plus the cost of tuition for one credit hour of the Philosophy Practicum and Internship Program course, which must be taken before or during the summer term in which the scholarship is awarded.