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The Joy of Learning

A lifetime in education, combined with Jumbo pride, leads to scholarship

When Lyn Courant, J58, retired from teaching, she began the next chapter in her career as an educator. For 18 years, she has volunteered for Step Up to Excellence, a Massachusetts nonprofit that provides one-to-one mentorship for low-income high school students. The program was started by Carolyn Birmingham, E57, Courant’s best friend from Tufts.

“As a former teacher, I place a high value on education,” says Courant, who serves on the Step Up to Excellence board and assisted Birmingham in selecting partner schools for the program. Step Up to Excellence pairs motivated students with educators, and the teams work together year-round during students’ sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school. The mentors help students set and achieve long- and short-term academic and personal goals.

Education is transformative, Courant says. “A good education is very important for the rest of your life, to enjoy life and know what’s going on in the world.”

But quality comes at a price. When Courant’s grandson, Paul Collins, A17, started his college search, she and her husband, Paul, A58—they met at a party at his fraternity—realized just how costly a liberal arts education had become. When they were Tufts undergraduates in the late 1950s, tuition was roughly $1,000 a year, compared with $49,520 this year.

That led them to establish the Lyn and Paul Courant Endowed Scholarship Fund at the School of Arts and Sciences. “We know how expensive college is, and we don’t want that to be a barrier to an excellent education,” Courant says. Their gift was doubled through the university’s ongoing Financial Aid Initiative, a deal that Paul says he could not pass up. “We never thought we’d be able to make a large contribution, but this match sounded like a win for us and for the kids who crucially need the scholarships,” he says.

After their graduation, Paul attended dental school at Harvard and went on to establish a periodontology practice in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, while Lyn taught middle school in Melrose; the couple raised four children. She also spent nine years setting local standards and policies as a member of the Concord-Carlisle Regional District School Committee.

Their grandson is the most recent in a long line of Jumbos. Paul’s father, Reginald Courant, a 1919 Tufts dental school graduate who commuted by train from his family home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, encouraged family members to follow in his footsteps. Paul’s older sister and three brothers-in-law are Tufts graduates. The Courants’ daughter Lyann Collins, A17P, also attended Tufts.

“We appreciate what Tufts did for us in terms of exposing us to a broader understanding of the world,” says Lyn. “As a liberal arts student, I took courses in subjects I otherwise wouldn’t have, like psychology and economics. And now my grandson is in the Tufts-in-Chile [study-abroad] program, and he’s learning to live, eat, and sleep in Spanish. I’m amazed at what he’s being exposed to.”